Growing public anger over the UK government’s refusal to allow National Health Service patients to top-up their care by paying privately for drugs which are not funded by the Service without forfeiting their basic package of care moved to Parliament this week.

John Baron, Conservative Member of Parliament for Billericay, tabled a debate on the issue in the Commons on June 10, following the death earlier this year of a constituent, bowel cancer patient Linda O’Boyle. 64-year-old Mrs O’Boyle was refused NHS treatment after she and her family paid for a course of Bristol-Myers Squibb/ImClone Systems’ Erbitux (cetuximab), which the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) says is not sufficiently cost-effective to warrant use on the NHS, after she failed to respond to Pfizer’s Campto (irinotecan).

Mrs O’Boyle’s case, which has been covered widely in the media, is “both terribly sad and hugely frustrating,” Mr Baron told the Commons. He added: “whatever one’s views about NICE and the fairness of some of its decisions, the relevant fact is simply that state-funded health care was unable to provide Mrs O’Boyle with the treatment that her clinician said she needed.”

Moreover, “given that the government want to encourage public-private sector arrangements, I find it extraordinary that they do not want public-individual citizen projects such as the one Linda wished to do,” he added. The total cost to Mrs O’Boyle’s family of her treatment was around £14,000.

Mr Baron also said he had written to Secretary of State for Health Alan Johnson about the issue, but the reply he received was “confused and inhumane. Let us be clear: co-payments are not about taking care from any other patient in order to help another patient go private. A drug is paid for privately, not subsidised by the state. One patient benefits without any other patient being harmed.”

If the NHS has chosen to differentiate between treatments through the NICE process, it is hypocritical to condemn patients for seeking to do likewise, he said, and added that, in any case, co-payments are already happening throughout the NHS, through private beds, dental and optician services.

“What is so different about cancer drugs and treatment? If co-payments are good enough for teeth whitening and contact lenses, why are they not good enough when it comes to prolonging, extending and perhaps even

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Growing public anger over the UK government’s refusal to allow National Health Service patients to top-up their care by paying privately for drugs which are not funded by the Service without forfeiting their basic package of care moved to Parliament this week.

John Baron, Conservative Member of Parliament for Billericay, tabled a debate on the issue in the Commons on June 10, following the death earlier this year of a constituent, bowel cancer patient Linda O’Boyle. 64-year-old Mrs O’Boyle was refused NHS treatment after she and her family paid for a course of Bristol-Myers Squibb/ImClone Systems’ Erbitux (cetuximab), which the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) says is not sufficiently cost-effective to warrant use on the NHS, after she failed to respond to Pfizer’s Campto (irinotecan).

Mrs O’Boyle’s case, which has been covered widely in the media, is “both terribly sad and hugely frustrating,” Mr Baron told the Commons. He added: “whatever one’s views about NICE and the fairness of some of its decisions, the relevant fact is simply that state-funded health care was unable to provide Mrs O’Boyle with the treatment that her clinician said she needed.”

Moreover, “given that the government want to encourage public-private sector arrangements, I find it extraordinary that they do not want public-individual citizen projects such as the one Linda wished to do,” he added. The total cost to Mrs O’Boyle’s family of her treatment was around £14,000.

Mr Baron also said he had written to Secretary of State for Health Alan Johnson about the issue, but the reply he received was “confused and inhumane. Let us be clear: co-payments are not about taking care from any other patient in order to help another patient go private. A drug is paid for privately, not subsidised by the state. One patient benefits without any other patient being harmed.”

If the NHS has chosen to differentiate between treatments through the NICE process, it is hypocritical to condemn patients for seeking to do likewise, he said, and added that, in any case, co-payments are already happening throughout the NHS, through private beds, dental and optician services.

“What is so different about cancer drugs and treatment? If co-payments are good enough for teeth whitening and contact lenses, why are they not good enough when it comes to prolonging, extending and perhaps ev