A TERMINALLY ill cancer patient who has spent £12,000 on a life-extending drug because the NHS refused to fund it has spoken of his relief after Lothian health chiefs reversed their decision.
Father-of-four Ian Morrison, 56, of West Linton, has called for a radical overhaul of the system that denied him free access to the drug Cetuximab for five months, and claimed Scotland’s NHS was at risk of becoming a “two-tier” system.
The drug, while approved for routine use by the Scottish Medicines Consortium for treatment of certain cancers in specific circumstances, was not available to Mr Morrison.
He had to submit an Individual Patient Treatment Request (IPTR) to NHS Lothian, which was initially turned down.
Mr Morrison, who owns and runs a wood burning stove shop in his home village, was paying out £850 per week for the drug, which he was told was the only treatment that could extend his life.
“I’m fortunate because we were in a position to pay for the drug, but it was £3500 a month and it wasn’t sustainable,” he said. “There are no definites, but without this treatment, I would have been looking at months. I’m working, pay tax and my business supports others in the area. Without the drug I would have had to close and would be on benefits. They don’t look at the bigger picture – I’m much more viable standing up.”
NHS Lothian has since changed its stance, and it is anticipated that the cost of treatment will be reimbursed.
As a result of taking Cetuximab, cancerous growths on Mr Morrison’s liver shrunk by two thirds while growths in his lungs have remained static.
Mr Morrison added: “We hope the on-going review into access to cancer drugs takes our experience of the IPTR system into account so that Scotland does not end up with a two-tier NHS system based around your ability to pay.” Dr David Farquharson, NHS Lothian’s medical director, said: “IPTRs are considered on a case by case basis through the Oncology Medicines Management Committee and ratified by the Individual Patient Treatment Requests panel.
“Each case is different and the committee would only recommend funding a treatment when they are confident it is clinically effective, evidence-based and safe.”
By Mark Flannagan, chief executive, Beating Bowel Cancer
This case highlights the inequalities that exist with access to life-prolonging
It’s vital that every bowel cancer patient has access to the medications which their clinicians feel could benefit them; as patients in England already do.
Patients in Scotland are three times less likely to get access to a newer cancer drug than those over the Border in England, because for many, they are being let down by the IPTR process.
Some patients are being told that they are not ‘exceptional enough’, even though their doctors say that they will benefit from the treatment.
These inequalities urgently need addressing.
Until then, some Scottish bowel cancer patients will have to needlessly beg for their lives.