Britain's National Health Service offers the modern anti-breast cancer drug Herceptin to patients only in "exceptional cases" because it is too expensive to offer to all women who might benefit. By contrast, Herceptin has been approved for use in the U.S. since 1998 for women whose breast cancers overexpress the HER2 receptor (between 20-25 percent of cases). It is very effective in preventing the recurrence of cancer in such patients.
In an illuminating story about just how government-funded health insurance works, the Times (London) reports:
PATIENTS will be denied access to drugs at the forefront of medical research after a landmark judgment on the breast cancer treatment Herceptin. The Court of Appeal ruled yesterday that it was illegal for health trusts to discriminate against patients by funding expensive unlicensed drugs case by case. The ruling means that trusts will now either have to agree to pay for a new drug for any patient whose doctor recommends it–with serious implications for NHS budgets– or refuse the treatment for the entire population it serves.
Whole thing here.