The government's health watchdog has not approved a potentially life-extending lung cancer treatment on the NHS, meaning that thousands of sufferers could have to seek private treatment if they wish to obtain the drug.
Tarceva, which costs just under £7,000 for a 125-day course, is widely regarded as a significant advance in the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer and, although it does not cure the disease, its manufacturer Roche claims that it increases patients' life expectancy.
The drug has been approved for use north of the border by the Scottish Medicines Consortium, the country's equivalent of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) which operates in England and Wales.
Charities have described the guidance as "deeply disappointing" and Cancer Research UK chief executive Professor Alex Markham commented that it was "incomprehensible" for a drug to be made available in Edinburgh, but not in Newcastle.
"Non-small cell lung cancer is very difficult to treat, and Tarceva is one of the few significant advances against the condition to emerge over the last decade," he said.
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