Lives at stake in NI because of denial of 34 cancer drugs.

You’ve been diagnosed with cancer. You are frightened, and upset, and uncertain of the future. You have no control if or when this disease is going to kill you. You resolve to fight it using every means possible to prolong your life, so that you can spend precious time with your loved ones.

A treatment is available which will most certainly help you to do that. Except its not available. Not in Northern Ireland. 34 life saving cancer drugs are denied to patients here. It’s costing lives.

Some of them are not available in Scotland or Wales either, and the situation is forcing women to go to England in desperation to avail of them there. It’s been termed a “postcode lottery”, and patients who Vixens spoke to are querying why cancer patients’ lives in England are deemed more important to save or prolong, than their counterparts in Northern Ireland. Because the devolved assembly has not introduced it, a cancer drugs fund is not in place here for drugs unavailable on the NHS.

The SDLP’s Fearghal Mc Kinney has called on the Health Minister, Edwin Poots, to take action without delay. “It is utterly shameful that cancer patients in Northern Ireland continue to be discriminated against in the supply of life saving drugs. The inequity that exists between cancer patients in Northern Ireland and those in England must be addressed. An urgent action plan is needed. I will continue to press the Health Minister on this issue to ensure that patients and their families get the best deal”.

One of the drugs denied routinely, is Avastin. Research has shown that this drug could add years to the llives of those with Ovarian Cancer, yet it is not available to many patients in the UK. It is the only new treatment in the neglected field of this cancer’s research in twenty years.

It can cost between £20, 000 to £30, 000 to administer Avastin per patient. Campaigner Una Crudden – herself terminally ill from Ovarian Cancer – believes that no price should be put on a life. Considering her chemotherapy cost approximately £100,000, its a relatively low figure to pay for extra time with loved ones.

Avastin, and the other 33 cancer combatting drugs could be introduced, along with a Cancer Fund to administer them, with relative ease. Consultants have already indicated privately that should they be available, patients with cancer would respond positively to treatment. It is inherently wrong that someone, already fighting for their life, should even have to contemplate being refused something which could help them to do that.



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