Following conflicting statements from the Minister for Health Alex Neil and major drug manufacturer Merck, Scottish Labour’s shadow health spokesperson Jackie Baillie MSP said:

“Alex Neil said bowel cancer patients who had had chemotherapy weren’t allowed to get the drug Cetuximab. He said that was a rule of the company, Merck who manufacture it.Jackie Baillie MSP 2

“Merck now say that is untrue. Indeed they say this drug is effective for bowel cancer sufferers who have had chemotherapy and is widely used in England.

“Alex Neil either doesn’t know the truth about cancer treatment in the NHS he runs, or he is deliberately misleading cancer sufferers and the people of Scotland.

“Alex Neil either doesn’t know the truth or he is hiding the truth. He is either incompetent or incapable of being straight.

“The doctors want patients like Maureen Fleming to get this drug. It is Alex Neil’s duty to find the resources to pay for it, not to come up with excuses to hide the truth.”

Call Kaye, Radio Scotland
Monday 20 May 2013

Alex Neil: What happens is that the Scottish Medicines Consortium which is the regulator and decides which drugs can be prescribed in Scotland allowed this drug to be prescribed in Scotland but a number of conditions suggested by the drug company Merck. One of those conditions is that anyone who has had chemotherapy will not get this drug and secondly you have to have a certain genetic clinical make up to benefit from the drug. Therefore people who meet these criteria are getting the drug in Scotland the same as they would get it south of the border.

Statement from Merck
Thursday 23 May 2013

Cetuximab has been proven to be effective and is licensed for use in bowel cancer patients previously treated with chemotherapy and is widely used for such patients in England. Cetuximab is restricted for use in NHS Scotland in this setting after being rejected by SMC on the grounds of cost not efficacy.

Labour-Hame-masthead1Follow Jackie on Twitter: @jackiebmsp