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Private cancer patients getting access to drugs that public patients can't get is 'incredibly unfair'

The Irish Cancer Society said that lifesaving medicines should be available to everyone who could benefit from them, not just people with private health insurance.

File photo
File photo
Image: DPA/PA Images

THE IRISH CANCER Society has said that private patients being able to access drugs for treating cancer which public patients can’t get is ‘incredibly unfair’.  

The organisation made the comments after VHI, which is the biggest health insurer in the country, said it would begin offering the innovative new drugs to its members for the treatment of very advanced melanoma, breast cancer and lung cancer. 

The Sunday Business Post reported today that the drugs will not be available to people who do not have private health insurance with VHI. 

Professor John Crown, an oncologist at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin, tweeted that the move was “welcome, but for the first time we now have differential public versus private access for cancer drugs”. 

The Irish Cancer Society said that lifesaving medicines should be available to everyone who could benefit from them, not just people with private insurance. 

“Private patients can already skip the queue for cancer tests,” said chief executive Averil Power. “Unless the government acts, the same will now be the case for some cancer drugs.”

She noted that the drugs in question are expensive and don’t work for every person who takes them, “but can be of huge benefit to some patients”. 

“Where there is strong evidence an innovative drug will work for a particular person, their doctor should be able to give it to them, regardless of whether they are a public or private patient,” she said. 

The Irish Patients Association called on the government to immediately match public patients access to medicine which private patients can get. 

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