12:00 - 21 February 2003
The plight of multiple sclerosis sufferers waiting to be assessed for the life-improving drug beta interferon has a depressingly familiar ring.
There is a backlog of patients because of the small number of consultants charged with assessing candidates and the massive number of MS patients who hope to receive the £8,000-a-year treatment. It's not so long since we were reporting on the misery of ailing ex-miners waiting to be seen by consultants as part of the lung disease compensation process.
Then, the problem was speedy access to money.
Now, the problem is speedy access to a treatment which cannot cure MS, but will hold up the progress of the condition for many patients and make their lives more manageable.
The delay is even more infuriating for a patient like Kate Eggleston, because her own doctors have already told her that she qualifies for beta interferon on medical grounds.
Yet Kate must wait, along with hundreds of other MS patients in Trent health region, because there is only one consultant assessor at the QMC. The hospital is willing to take on another, but so specialised are the requirements that candidates cannot be found.
Even so, we hope the QMC continues to look for that second consultant, for every passing day without the prescription will reduce its eventual impact on individual patients.
Meanwhile the Government must think about how it handles both trials
and 'clinical need' assessments in the future...as medical research flourishes
there will be more cases like this one.
© Copyright 2003, Northcliffe Electronic Publishing Ltd