September 23, 2008

Cancer Victim Who Battled for Access to New Drug Dies

By Barry Nelson

CANCER campaigner Barbara Selby has died without ever getting the advanced drug she believed could prolong her life.

The plight of Mrs Selby, who spent more than a year trying to persuade her local NHS primary care trust to fund her treatment with a drug called Sutent, was first highlighted by The Northern Echo.

The grandmother and mother-of-three died peacefully at her home in Richmond early last Friday.

Mrs Selby, a former NHS nurse from Richmond, who turned 65 last week, had been battling kidney cancer.

Early last year, her consultant at The James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, told her she might benefit from a new drug called Sutent, which is widely prescribed by cancer specialists across Europe.

But because the drug was not approved by the national drug watchdog the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), she knew it would be difficult to get Sutent on the NHS.

Mrs Selby then began the first of a series of requests to North Yorkshire and York Primary Care Trust for them to provide funding for a course of Sutent, which can cost up to [pounds]30,000 a year.

Her first attempt to get Sutent on the NHS coincided with the launch of The Northern Echo?s End NHS Injustice campaign.

Early last year, the paper highlighted the plight of kidney cancer patient Kathleen Devonport, 64, from Chilton, County Durham, who was initially refused funding for Sutent.

Despite fitting the criteria for the drug, County Durham Primary Care Trust (PCT) refused a request from her consultant to fund Sutent on clinical and cost-effectiveness grounds.

Within weeks of Mrs Davenport?s story appearing in the paper, an anonymous benefactor stepped forward to contribute [pounds]9,000 towardsMrs Devonport?s treatment.

Shortly after that, funding was agreed by her PCT.

A few weeks later the expert group that advises North-East primary care trusts on new cancer drugs decided that Sutent should be made available to NHS patients in the region.

But because she was living in North Yorkshire, Mrs Selby was again denied funding for Sutent, on clinical and cost-effectiveness grounds.

Last night, her daughter, Clare Whitehead, said: ?I just wanted to thank everybody for all the help to try to getmy mother this drug, especially The Northern Echo. ? Lastmonth, cancer patients gathered outside the headquarters of Nice to criticise the group?s draft guidance that new cancer drugs including Sutent, Avastin, Nexavar and Torisel are not cost-effective enough to be prescribed on the NHS.

(c) 2008 Northern Echo. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.