AN USK woman who is campaigning for a drug she has said could prolong her life to be made freely available on the Welsh NHS has blasted the board that has denied her the medication.
Ann Wilkinson, who has suffered with cancer for three years, will start a course of £6,000 treatment at Nevill Hall Hospital in Abergavenny on Friday paid for her by her family - after the NHS refused her Avastin even though it is available on the NHS in England.
She originally started to have chemotherapy for bowel cancer but since then the disease has spread to her liver and adrenal glands.
And she is furious she can’t get access to the drug when others in England would.
Mrs Wilkinson, who lives on New Market Street, said: “I’m in my seventies and it’s just not fair. Everyone should have this chance, young or old. It is one place, Britain, and who said Wales is different?”
She said that on the day she was told she would not be given Avastin the stress was so much that her husband Allan suffered a heart attack.
And she said she was angered by people on the Aneurin Bevan Health Board’s individual patient funding request (IPFR) panel which declined to give her the drug.
She added: “I would like to know their family was turned down, how would they react?”
A petition set up by Mrs Wilkinson’s friend and Usk author Julie McGowan calling for cancer drug availability to be the same in Wales as in England now has over 1,200 signatures and has been supported by Monmouth MP David Davies and Nick Ramsay AM.
Mr Ramsay said of the Welsh Government’s lack of a fund: “It does not make any sense."
If further chemotherapy and Avastin is successful, Mrs Wilkinson’s next course of treatment will be paid for by Usk’s Panto Players group. Members, including Mrs McGowan, had saved up thousands of pounds for new microphones but decided they would fund Mrs Wilkinson’s fight with it instead.
Among other supporters, the town’s mayor Cllr Roger Galletley has written a letter to the Welsh Government’s health minister Mark Drakeford.
He said denying Mrs Wilkinson Avastin is “outrageous when it is freely available 15 miles away.”
While 640 people from Usk’s German twin town, Graben-Neudorf, signed their own petition in support of Mrs Wilkinson being given Avastin after hearing of her plight.
In response to Mrs Wilkinson’s complaints, an Aneurin Bevan Health Board spokesman said its drugs board makes decisions on whether a patient’s condition is unusual or rare. If it is, they must further decide whether they would receive a greater clinical benefit from the treatment than others who have the same disease. He added: “The IPFR panel of the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board meets to consider requests to fund treatment outside of the guidance issued by NICE.
“Whilst we understand that patients are sometimes disappointed with the decisions made by the IPFR Panel in order to fund treatment clinical exceptionality has to be proved. Where no clinical exceptionality can be identified a clear process is outlined in the All Wales Policy on Making Individual Patient Funding Requests for requesting a review of the decision made and submitting further clinical information for consideration.”
An exceptional case is where the patient will derive a greater clinical benefit from the treatment than other patients with the same disease, and whether the clinical presentation of the case is deemed to be rare or exceptional, the spokesman added..
A Welsh Government spokesman said: “Avastin has been appraised by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for use in the treatment of certain cancers but not for routine use in the NHS in England or Wales. All medicines approved by NICE for use in the NHS are made available in Wales.
“Research published in the British Journal of Cancer earlier this year concluded that Wales had a faster uptake of medicines most recently launched and subsequently recommended by NICE than England.
“The All-Wales Medicines Strategy Group (AWMSG) also appraises medicines for use in Wales, ensuring patients have access to treatments which have a proven evidence base and are demonstrated to be cost-effective.
“A cancer drugs fund undermines this evidence-based approach and unfairly disadvantages those patients with serious conditions other than cancer.
“If a clinician believes a patient will gain significantly more benefit from a treatment which is not routinely available on the NHS they can apply to their health board for funding through the Individual Patient Funding Request process.”
To sign Mrs McGowan’s petition visit change.org/en-GB/petitions/cancer-drugs-for-wales.