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Patients enter "lottery" over drugs

Sufferers of rare forms of cancers have to face a postcode lottery over who gets access to certain drugs, according to research.

A study from the Rarer Cancers Forum found wide variations across England in the number of patients granted access to medicines.

The charity obtained full details under the Freedom of Information Act from 62 of England's 152 primary care trusts (PCTs).

It showed that 100% of applications from patients were rejected in some areas of the country, while other areas saw every single one approved.

A total of 96% of patients living in the Mid Essex PCT area had their requests approved, while every one in neighbouring South West Essex PCT had theirs rejected.

Calculations from the charity suggest 1,314 patients across England may have been denied treatment.

The charity's chief executive, Penny Wilson-Webb, said: "The NHS should be available to all who need it.

"Yet 1,300 cancer patients were denied the treatment that could have made all the difference to them."

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "The Department of Health issued good practice guidance to the NHS in December 2006 that makes it clear that funding for treatments should not be withheld solely because NICE guidance is not available, but that decisions should be made on the basis of the available evidence."

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