Emergency funding must be given to cash-strapped local health bosses so that breast cancer sufferers can be treated using Herceptin, a Midland MP has demanded.
Primary care trusts have been told by Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt not to refuse to use the life-saving drug solely on grounds of cost.
But Mark Fisher (Lab Stoke Central) said many trusts simply could not afford the drug - which costs £21,800 a year for each patient. He urged the Government to find extra funding so the drug could be administered now.
He warned that further delays would be fatal for thousands of women.
The drug is not yet licensed for use in the early stages of the disease but PCTs have been told to fund it anyway, if the patient is aware of the possible risks.
Nurse Barbara Clarke won a legal battle to force her local health body to pay for Herceptin and patients in some parts of the country have also been able to get the treatment on the NHS.
Mr Fisher said: "It's no good saying this is a matter for PCTs if they can't afford it.
" Many are millions of pounds in debt and I don't think it is a satisfactory solution for the Secretary of State to simply say the cost is not a problem.
"They need to know that the Government is behind them and will back them up financially.
"The Secretary of State must enter into discussions with the Chancellor and the Treasury now."
It was "a matter of life and death" for many women, he told Health Minister Jane Kennedy.
He added: "Let them live; let them be tested; let them have this drug available to them not depending on where they live or how much money they have, but on the National Health Service. I beg you not to turn your back on these women."
Midland health trusts are already facing a financial crisis.
Trusts in Birmingham and the Black Country are set to go £23 million over budget.
Figures presented to the board of the Strategic Health Authority show that hospitals, primary care trusts and the ambulance service will run up the deficit between them.