South west Londoners denied access to preventative breast cancer drug

Breast cancer patients in South West London are being denied access to life-saving drugs that cost just 43p a day, according to a report from Breast Cancer Now.

Half of South West London’s six Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are not routinely funding bisphosphonates for eligible women, which could save the lives of an estimated 1,180 women each year.

The report from leading charity Breast Cancer Now entitled Good Enough? Breast Cancer in the UK shows that just 42 of 208 CCGs in England are regularly offering bisphosphonates to eligible patients.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, the charity’s chief executive, called for urgent action and accused the Government and NHS England of failing to address disease prevention.

She said: “This continued lack of leadership across UK nations will cost thousands more lives if simple opportunities to make further improvements continue to be inexcusably ignored.

“That the Government and NHS England have not ensured all eligible patients can access these drugs is nothing short of a ‘dereliction of duty’.”

A report published in The Lancet in July 2015 revealed that bisphosphonates can reduce the risk of breast cancer spreading to the bone in and improve breast cancer survival, but only in post-menopausal women.

There are estimated to be at least 35,700 post-menopausal women diagnosed with breast cancer every year.

The 43p per day cost includes consultant time and monitoring for possible side-effects.

Even though more women than ever are now surviving breast cancer, Baroness Morgan stressed that this should prevent pushes for improvements.

She said: “While we have seen real strides forward in recent decades, these figures highlight a worrying plateau in NHS progress.”

In November 2016, the Department of Health and NHS England made it clear that the responsibility for funding bisphosphonates lies with local CCGs.

But many CCGs remain unaware of this responsibility and almost one in five CCGs, including three of those in South West London are not routinely offering the drugs to eligible patients.

Breast Cancer Now’s report outlines 18 key recommendations for action across the UK by October 2018, one of which is to significantly improve patient access to preventative drugs for breast cancer.

When asked for comment, the CCGs in Croydon, Kingston, Merton, Richmond and Sutton indicated that they prescribe preventative cancer drugs in line with NICE  (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) Guidelines.
Communications manager Stephanie Kendrick said: “These drugs would be prescribed initially by a breast cancer specialist who would assess if the treatment was suitable in the individual circumstances.
“The relevant GP would then continue to prescribe the appropriate medication for the patient consultation with the specialist involved in the patient’s treatment.”

Those wishing to take action can email their local MP through Breast Cancer Now’s website.

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