BUSINESS QUESTION – LIFE-SAVING DRUGS – 8 December 2005
Dr Julian Lewis: May I ask the Leader of the House for an urgent statement on the differing availability of life-saving anti-cancer drugs in different parts of the country? My constituent, Mr. Brian Jago, is dying of cancer. His consultants say that Velcade, a new drug, could save his life and that probably nothing else could. If he lived in Cardiff or Edinburgh, we believe that the word of the consultants would be enough for him to be prescribed the drug. As he lives near Southampton, a district prescribing committee's permission is required, and that has not been given. May we have a statement about whose word should run in these matters – that of a prescribing committee, or that of the consultants concerned with the welfare of the patients?
[The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr Geoffrey Hoon): If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I do not intend to be drawn into the circumstances of that particular patient – obviously we are all concerned about his position – nor indeed of the particular drug. I accept that consistency across the country is necessary, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health has had regard to that in relation to a number of high-profile cases. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept that that consistency must be determined by national standards, not least in relation to new drugs, as it is important for those who are likely to use them that the drugs are tested and satisfy stringent standards before being employed. I assure him that the Government are working hard to eliminate the type of discrepancy that he appears to be describing.]
[For later developments, click here.]