A survey carried out by the UK Breast Cancer Group (UKBCG) has revealed that just a quarter of breast cancer oncologists in the UK are able to prescribe bisphosphonates to women with the condition due to lack of guidance from the National Health Service (NHS).

If at least 35,700 women are diagnosed with primary breast cancer every year, and just a quarter of the eligible patients are receiving the drug, that leaves out almost 27,000 women from being provided with affordable yet effective breast cancer treatment.

Bisphosphonates were originally prescribed to strengthen the bones of those who have osteoporosis and those who have cancers that have spread to the bone. But the drug was shown by meta-analyses in July 2015 to be also effective at reducing the likelihood of breast cancer spreading in the body, where it becomes harder to treat.

Taken by post-menopausal women with primary breast cancer, the cancer treatment can lead not only to a reduced risk in the cancer spreading, from 21.2 percent down to 17.9 percent, but also reduced risks of death from the disease, from 18 percent to 14.7 percent within a 10-year period.

Additionally, if bisphosphonates are administered routinely to all women eligible in the UK, an additional 1,180 breast cancer deaths could be prevented each year. That's one in every 10 deaths attributed to the cancer!

At what cost? On average, just 43p ($0.56) a day, including consultations and what it would cost to monitor a patient for potential side effects.

Unfortunately, without clear guidance on who will be funding the prescriptions, breast cancer oncologists have not been able to prescribe bisphosphonates to their patients, no matter how effective the drug is as a treatment.

"While bisphosphonates are not routinely available to all eligible breast cancer patients, women's lives are needlessly being put to at risk," said Baroness Delyth Morgan, Breast Cancer Now chief executive.

Breast Cancer Now got in touch with NHS England back in March seeking funding clarifications but has not yet been provided with a response. Armed with results from the UKBCG, however, the charity is renewing its call on NHS England to make a decision on who should be tasked with funding bisphosphonates for UK women with breast cancer.

It is estimated that it would cost the NHS nearly £17 million ($22 million) to administer the affordable cancer drug annually to eligible patients. However, these costs could be offset by short- and long-term savings, allowing the agency to pocket almost £5 million ($6.5 million) over 10 years for every year breast cancer patients are treated.

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