Cost of drugs hinder sufferersCancer sufferers can't afford vital drugs

06 February 2006

Cancer patients are being denied vital drugs because they cannot afford the cost of the prescription, according to a damning new report.

Breast Cancer Care says that nearly half of breast cancer patients have experienced financial difficulties after being forced to pay prescription charges for their treatment.

But, more worryingly, it says that 15 per cent of patients have not taken the drugs they need because of cost.

The charity is now calling on the government to scrap prescription charges for cancer treatment.

Its survey found the annual cost of prescriptions for breast cancer patients can range from around GBP 90 a year to hundreds of pounds, particularly for those having to take a number of drugs over a long period of time.

Advances in treatment mean many patients now take cancer drugs over a number of years. For example, hormone therapies are commonly prescribed by doctors for at least five and as many as ten years, to help prevent the disease spreading or coming back.

Enormous strain

Next year, all prescription charges will be scrapped for patients in Wales and proposals are being examined by the Scottish Executive.

In England people with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and some forms of epilepsy, already get free prescriptions.

But Christine Fogg, Breast Cancer Care's Chief Executive now wants that extended to cover cancer treatment.

She said: 'Thankfully more people with cancer are now surviving than ever before but many are now being treated long term which comes at a price.

'Prescription charges, on top of all the added costs that can come with cancer (extra child-care, hospital travel, special dietary supplements) can place enormous strain on individuals and families.

'After 40 years it's time for change. The Government must commit to an urgent review of the current list of exemptions. No one should ever be forced to pay prescription charges for what may be life-saving treatment.'