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BBC investigation shows cancer drug postcode lottery

A BBC investigation has revealed that patients in many parts of the country have to pay for private cancer treatment if they want certain new drugs, while those in other areas are given the drugs on the NHS.

New drugs have to be approved by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the Scottish Medicines Consortium north of the border before they achieve widespread NHS use.

However, primary care trusts (PCTs) are entitled to provide unapproved drugs as they see fit.

Despite this, programme researchers for BBC One's 'Dom's on the Case' found that PCTs varied greatly in their provision of five new cancer drugs - Avastin, Erbitux, Nexavar, Sutent and Tarceva.

While some authorities accepted all requests for the drugs, others did not approve a single one.

For example, six PCTs in the north-west of the country funded every application for the drugs, while Manchester turned down every one.

Cancer Research UK's director of policy and public affairs, Richard Davidson, told the BBC: "This report not only gives clear evidence that the postcode prescribing lottery remains a major problem, but probably underestimates the scale of it."

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BBC investigation shows cancer drug postcode lottery
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