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Prescribing of recommended drugs a postcode lottery

Practice The NHS must explain the significant regional variations in prescribing of recommended drug treatments, says ABPI chief executive Stephen Whitehead (pictured)

Patients are being denied access to new recommended treatments for cancer, stroke prevention and motor neurone disease due to regional variations in prescribing, NHS data has revealed.

Only two thirds of renal cancer patients in England who were suitable for Nice-recommended treatments sunitinib and pazopanib received the drugs, suggested data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre, released on Tuesday (January 21).

A similar amount failed to receive riluzole for motor neurone disease, found the experimental statistics, which analysed the difference between expected and actual usage of 10 groups of medicines between 2010 and 2012. Usage was higher than expected for two of these groups, at expected levels for three groups and lower for three. The NHS was unable to calculate a figure for two of the groups.

The NHS must investigate the significant unexplained regional variations in prescribing, says ABPI chief executive Stephen Whitehead

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An analysis of regional differences also revealed a 10-fold variation in the usage of denosumab to treat osteoporosis and a 29-fold variation in prescribing of rivaroxaban and dabigatran for stroke prevention.

The report was the fourth of its kind on uptake of Nice-approved medicines; last year's also revealed imbalances in drug usage across England.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) said the latest data served as a "stark reminder" of how treatment could differ according to where a patient lives.

"We recognise that there are a number of legitimate reasons why medicines are used at different rates in different parts of the country, but it is the significant unexplained variation that needs to be the focus of NHS efforts," argued ABPI chief executive Stephen Whitehead.

Manufacturer Sanofi also expressed alarm at the findings. "This report needs to be given the highest priority by the NHS," stressed Steve Oldfield, managing director of Sanofi in the UK and Ireland.

Are you aware of any patients missing out on recommended drug treatments for their condition?

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