Did any of you watch this last Sunday’s Panorama program about Herceptin?
No, you haven’t? Consider yourself lucky, for you have missed a sub-standard piece of subjective, single-sided, poor journalism.
There was a lot of talk about and from those women who desire Herceptin, as it appears to have good chances not only to extend lives but also to cure breast cancer, when given in the early stages. I have sympathy with those women, but one must of course look at all aspects of the story. This is where Panorama failed.
Some NHS representatives had at least an opportunity to explain that allocating resources for the purchase of this very expensive drug means to make cuts elsewhere, and it was also explained by some that this drug is not yet licensed for the use desired by these women.
The obvious next question would go to Roche, Herceptin’s manufacturer. Why does it have to be so expensive? Is the cost of development and production really so high, or is Roche adding a very generous profit margin? Is guess so, but Panorama did think this worth questioning although the cost of the medication was a re-occurring theme throughout the program.
Further, no one questioned Roche just why the license for early breast cancer treatment hasn’t been applied for yet. We only heard a brief mention of "soon", but again, no interview with, or statement from, Roche. Their patent on Herceptin runs out in only 5 years, so they will be keen to bring it on the market for this second indication. I guess they have good reasons why this hasn’t happened yet, but again, Panorama didn’t care.
Further, once Roche will have applied for the license, we were left in the dark about the time this process might take. No government or NHS representative was asked about the duration of this process or how it could possibly be sped up.
We did get a lot of tearful emotional blackmail, though.
Watch out for the continued press coverage on subject matter. My guess is, as the Panorama program subtitled, that those who shout the loudest win over reason and good standard procedures. They certainly won over good standard journalistic procedures.