Myeloma patients in Wales are being denied access to a medicine that could improve their chances of having stem cell transplantation because of a row over who is responsible for funding it.
Mozobil (plerixafor; Genzyme) can rapidly boost the number of stem cells circulating in the blood, and thereby offers new hope to patients who do not have sufficient quantities for a successful transplant – a key step in the effective treatment of myeloma and lymphoma.
In March this year, the All Wales Medicines Strategy Group approved the use of Mozobil in combination with granulocyte colony-stimulating factor on the National Health Service in Wales - at an estimated gross direct cost of around £231,000 per year - as an interim measure pending guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.
But despite this approval, and the legal weight it carries, Myeloma UK says it has learned that Mozobil is still being withheld from patients “because of confusion over which body should fund it”.
According to the charity, stem cell transplant services are usually funded by the Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee, but a dispute seems to have arisen over which NHS organisation is responsible for implementing the AWMSG’s recommendation and stumping up the cash to pay for Mozobil’s use.
“It is a disgrace that the AWMSG can spend time and public money carefully assessing a drug which it subsequently recommends for use, if the NHS is then able to withhold it from patients,” said Eric Low, Myeloma UK Chief Executive, and he called on both the health service and policy-makers to resolve the “unacceptable situation”.