Shouting “Shame! shame!” thousands of cancer patients and their families marched through Rome on Saturday to demand the government provide free doses of an untested cancer treatment.
The Health Ministry agreed earlier this year to conduct clinical trials of Dr. Luigi Di Bella’s cocktail of hormones and vitamins, which is considered by some to be a miracle cure.
The government also ordered that the mixture be made available at nominal cost to anyone who wants it.
But some pharmacies had been charging hundreds of dollars for the treatment, and many pharmacies have run out of it.
Police said about 6,000 people marched through downtown Rome. Cancer patient support groups said there were three times as many.
At one point, the marchers broke through police barriers at the square where the protest was supposed to end and started up the street that leads to Premier Romano Prodi’s office. Police blocked them.
“Chemotherapy is destroying me,” said Benedetta Fioravanti, 50, who said she had a brain tumor and was rejected for the clinical trials. “Now I’m doing everything possible to find the money for the medicine, but I just can’t find it.”
Another protester said she traveled seven hours by bus from the southern city of Bari to tell other demonstrators about her mother.
“They told her she wouldn’t have lived till Christmas, but for four months she has been on the Di Bella cure, and she is much better,” Cinzia Bozzi said.