September 24, 2008
Ex-Mayor Launches Cancer Drug Fight
A SENIOR civil servant, diagnosed with terminal cancer and denied treatment with a new drug, has taken his campaign to the National Assembly calling for an end to the postcode lottery.
Former Brecon town mayor Chris Lewis, who has been given two years to live, said he is now fighting for thousands of others who are terminally ill and would even refuse the drug treatment unless it was prescribed to all patients in his situation.
The grandfather-of-four is calling on Welsh Health Minister Edwina Hart for the cancer drug Sutent, which costs up to pounds 18,000 a year, to be made freely available when recommended by a patient's cancer doctor.
The drug has been turned down for NHS use in the UK by drug watchdogs Nice as not being cost-effective although it is widely used in the USA.
Mr Lewis, 54, of Pwllmeyric, near Chepstow, was diagnosed with kidney cancer in May, a disease that has now spread to his spine and lungs and left him wheelchair- bound.
He was turned down for treatment with the drug by his local health board in Monmouth.
He said that after his protest yesterday at the National Assembly he was now planning to take his campaign to the Houses of Parliament on October 14.
"This is not about me - it's about all those other people that are dealing with the bureaucrats that are making life and death decisions and being refused a life-prolonging drug," he said.
"Sutent has proved clinically effective over the years so why is it being declared not cost effective. Everyone has the right to life."
A Welsh Assembly Government spokesman said: "We cannot comment on individual cases. Any decision to refuse treatment would be a personal decision for the individual patient. Health Minister Edwina Hart recognises the distress for the individual and family and friends of individuals living with kidney cancer.
"The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence or the All-Wales Medicine Strategy Group review the evidence for the use of a wide range of drugs, particularly those where the cost of the treatment is high or the benefits are marginal.
"In making decisions, all the latest evidence is evaluated thoroughly. All drugs approved by Nice as clinically and cost- effective for use on the NHS must be made available to patients within three months of approval."
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