Cancer patients ‘not advised of new treatments’

Cancer patients 'not advised of new life-extending drugs'

Cancer patients have not been given information about new treatments that could prolong their lives, a new survey has revealed.

Sufferers have been kept in the dark by their own doctors, according to the new survey.

A quarter of specialists in a bone marrow cancer, known as myeloma which kills 2,600 people every year, have admitted not telling their patients about potential therapies.

Doctors thought it best not to discuss alternative treatments with patients that have not yet been approved by the health service’s rationing watchdog, as they did not wish to raise patient’s hopes.

If drugs have not yet been passed by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), primary care trusts are reluctant to pay for them.

Patients can opt to cover the costs themselves, but under Government guidelines, they are then denied all free NHS treatment.

The survey carried out by charity Myeloma UK revealed some doctors are actively keeping information from cancer patients, owing to the drug rationing system.

In 96% of cases, specialists opted to keep quiet about potential treatments as they said they didn’t want to ‘distress, upset or confuse’ their patients.

Eric Low, chief executive of Myeloma UK, said it was ‘appalling’ that patients in Europe had access to life-extending drugs denied to the British.

He also said ‘post-code prescribing’ was prevalent in the UK, with some sufferers allowed treatments before a decision from Nice, while others were ‘left to die’.

Dr Atul Mehta, a haematologist consultant at the Royal Free Hospital in London, said the survey results showed the ‘dismal state’ of cancer management.

Several myeloma treatments are currently under review by Nice, including the drug Revlimid. Initial trials indicate the drug could lengthen cancer sufferers’ lives by three years.

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