A male breast cancer sufferer has won his battle to receive the drug Herceptin on the NHS.

Stuart Weaver, 37, was told yesterday that his local NHS trust had agreed to fund the £20,000 a year treatment.

Mr Weaver, who lives with his wife, Karen, and their two children in Maidstone, Kent, was diagnosed with breast cancer last year.

He underwent a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy but his private health insurance scheme refused to fund the cost of Herceptin, saying his policy did not cover "preventative care".

Herceptin can halve the chances of breast cancer returning in some patients.

It has been licensed for use in late-stage forms of the disease but is still awaiting approval for treating early breast cancer, despite evidence that it can be highly effective in such cases.

Some NHS trusts have refused to give Herceptin to early-stage breast cancer sufferers and so far three women have gone to the High Court in their battle for treatment.

Other trusts have backed down and agreed to fund the treatment when threatened with legal action, but charities say that patients are still being subjected to a "postcode lottery" where the drug is available in some areas of the country but not others.

Mr Weaver appealed to the Maidstone Weald Primary Care Trust's individual treatment panel for the right to be treated with Herceptin after claiming that he was being denied the drug because he was a man.

After a meeting of the panel, the trust released a statement saying: "Following careful consideration of Mr Weaver's individual clinical needs and taking into account the clinical advice of his consultants, we have agreed to fund the drug Herceptin for Mr Weaver's treatment.

We have just spoken with Mr Weaver and he was happy with the news." Clara Mackay, director of policy and research for Breast Cancer Care, said: "Herceptin has the potential to benefit many people with early-stage breast cancer. Yet we hear daily from patients confused and worried about their possible access to it ahead of a licensing decision.

"Anyone with breast cancer, male or female, should be able to feel confident that if their clinician has recommended a particular treatment, they will be able to access it."

Around 300 men are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK every year.

In another example of the postcode lottery, the Scottish Medicines Consortium yesterday approved another highly effective breast cancer drug, Femara.

The body which makes recommendations on the NHS use of drugs in England and Wales, the National Institute for Clinical and Healthcare Excellence (Nice) is not expected to rule on Femara for another six months.

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