Some Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) in England are spending more than twice as much as others on prescription drugs for cancer patients, according to figures obtained by the Conservative Party.

On average, English PCTs spend £390.17 per patient per year on drugs for cancer patients, with the top spender, Mid-Essex PCT, paying £594.55 per patient and the lowest, Barnsley, paying just £150.21, according to the Tories, quoting figures released under the Freedom of Information Act.

PCTs’ spending on individual cancer drugs also showed wide variations across England, they add. For example, while the Trusts spend an average of £1,748 per 100 patients on Roche/Genentech’s Avastin (bevacizumab), in London the figure reaches £8,732 and it drops to only £46 in the West Midlands.

Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said the findings showed that radically different approaches are being taken across the country as to whether patients should be given access to new cancer drugs. However, he added that the “huge” variations are not justified by the clinical evidence, which means they must be being dictated by financial considerations, and he described this as worrying.

- Meantime, the Department of Health has announced that Alexion’s Soliris (eculizimab), used in the treatment of the rare blood disorder paroxysmal nocturnal haemogloburinia (PNH), is to be funded centrally. The condition, which is also sometimes known as Marchiafava-Micheli syndrome, is estimated to affect no more than 10,000 people in North America and Western Europe, and the annual costs of treatment with the drug are put at £245,700 per patient.