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February 20, 2017

Cancer charity welcomes NHS u-turn on second stem cell treatments

  • Government
  • Agency
  • Genetics/Genomics

The Guardian – Cancer campaigners have welcomed an NHS announcement that money may soon be available for a potentially lifesaving treatment it had previously refused to pay for.

The health service in England said on Sunday it was “confident” it would soon be able to announce funding for second stem cell treatments for blood cancer patients who have relapsed after an initial transfusion.

It came as the Anthony Nolan charity called on health secretary Jeremy Hunt to intervene on behalf of patients following a decision by the NHS last summer to refuse to pay for the second transfusions, saying they were more expensive and less effective than other drugs and treatments.

On Sunday night an NHS England spokeswoman: “Last year medical experts ranked other new treatments as higher priority for new funding, but heading into the year beginning April 2017 we are confident the NHS will shortly be able to confirm funding for a further expansion of new treatments including second stem cell transplants.”

Anthony Nolan said it was “very welcome” news. 

Chief executive Henny Braund said: “While it has tragically come too late for patients who have been denied this lifesaving treatment in the past year, this decision by NHS England will ultimately mean in future, patients and families can be reassured that they will now be able to receive the appropriate treatment should their blood cancer return.”

In a poll of 1,700 people carried out by Populus on behalf of the charity, 66% of respondents said patients who relapsed after their first treatment should be given a second round, and almost half said it was unacceptable for friends or family to have to foot the bill. Almost six in 10 said the government was not doing a good enough job of making sure the NHS had the money to fund the treatments people needed.

Before the announcement, Lisa Hepburn, whose husband Gavin died last year after two attempts to get an individual request for a second stem cell treatment were rejected, said: “There’s no explanation from the NHS; nothing from the heart. I feel for people who are in the situation of having to raise the money themselves. I can’t believe the government can put a price on a person’s life – that’s what they are doing.”

Last week a group of charities wrote to Theresa May urging her to stop the NHS rationing treatment for people with serious illnesses and to find more money for care in next month’s budget.

Image citation: NHS ConfederationCC BY 2.0