Dying cancer patient wins battle to get NHS funding for treatment
A DYING cancer patient has persuaded a health board to reverse a decision not to fund the drug treatment he believes will prolong his life.
NHS Grampian last night said it would now pay for 53-year-old Mike Gray, who has terminal bowel cancer, to receive the drug Cetuximab, which costs 3,400 a fortnight.
The housing-association manager, his family and friends have spent over 16,000 of their savings funding a course of treatment since October last year.
The drug is said to have a one-in-four success rate of prolonging the lives of bowel- cancer sufferers. Although licensed in Scotland, the drug is not approved under the National Health Service.
Mr Gray and his wife, Tina, have fought a high-profile campaign since doctors revealed he had just months to live in October. Mr Gray was told he was not entitled to the drug which he had been advised had some success in controlling tumours, and could give him several extra months of life.
Mr Gray, from Buckie, in Moray, and his oncologist from Dr Gray's Hospital in Elgin, yesterday appeared before a meeting of the exceptional-treatment panel of NHS Grampian to plead with experts for the health board to take over the funding.
NHS Grampian had previously agreed with the advice of the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) that prescribing him the medication would not be cost-effective. But last night they agreed to fund his treatment – and repay the money he had already paid out.
On learning of the decision, Mr Gray said : "We're delighted at the decision of the panel. We'll now be able to pay back our family and friends in full.
"We are selfishly very pleased from our point of view, but very mindful of the fact that other people will be in a similar position to our family.
"For whatever reason, they simply may not be able to find the money to pay for the same treatment."
Mr Gray said he had been told he could live for another six months if he continues with the treatment. Last week, Mr Gray took his case to the Scottish Parliament, where members of Holyrood's petitions committee described his treatment as "degrading" and "deeply troubling".
Meanwhile, last night, NHS Grampian said the panel had decided that Mr Gray had benefited more from the treatment than would normally be expected.
A spokesman said: "Mr Gray will now be prescribed Cetuximab funded by NHS Grampian. All his costs previously incurred will be reimbursed in full.
"We understand this has been a difficult time for Mr Gray and his family. We also acknowledge that, as a staged process, it must seem slow and obstructive.
"However, we believe the arrangements are robust and absolutely necessary in order to reach sound, clinical decisions."
The health board said that it was "vitally important" that medicines were prescribed in a measured and consistent way across the country, adding that it was for that reason all boards had exceptional-circumstances panels to decide if an individual patient would benefit more from the medicine than would normally be expected.
"Decisions are always evidence-based and reached on clinical grounds," the spokesman added.
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