Decision to deny cancer patient life-prolonging drug is reversed

Nicola Sturgeon has announced a �9 million funding boost to help health boards prepare for winter.
Nicola Sturgeon has announced a �9 million funding boost to help health boards prepare for winter.
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A desperately ill cancer patient has been given life-extending drugs after Nicola Sturgeon’s office contacted her health board, it has emerged.

NHS Grampian reversed its decision to deny breast cancer sufferer Anne Maclean-Chang the drug Kadcyla after one of Ms Sturgeon’s officials got in touch.

Ms Sturgeon revealed that the mother-of-two would get the drug at First Minister’s Questions, but was unable to guarantee that all other cancer patients would be given the treatment they want.

The about-turn came after Mrs Maclean Chang’s wrote a moving letter to the First Minister which spoke of her desire to prolong her life so that she could spend more time with her two young sons Nathan and Ollie.

Ms Sturgeon’s office contacted the health board after receiving the letter and the day before her plight was featured in a tabloid newspaper. In her letter, Mrs Maclean Chang revealed that family and friends had been attempting to raise £90,000 to fund the palliative nurse’s treatment.

She also said an Edinburgh-based consultant believed she should get the drug, but NHS Grampian originally turned down her request for it.

At Holyrood, Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said it “shouldn’t have taken” an article in a newspaper for the decision to be reversed as she called on Ms Sturgeon to “fix the mess” surrounding the allocation of cancer drugs.

Ms Sturgeon accused the Labour leader of “choosing to politicise” the issue, adding that there were systems in place to allocate drugs to patients.

But Ms Dugdale responded saying: “The only person who politicised this issue was the First Minister right there and then. Because the truth of the matter is that Anne Maclean-Chang had to find the courage and strength to tell her story on the front page of a national newspaper for your government to act.

“Think of all the people around the country waiting for that help. We know she is not alone. The system has to be reformed so that in future cancer systems don’t have to have bake sales for the cancer treatment they seek.”

Ms Dugdale challenged the First Minister to guarantee that other patients like Mrs MacLean-Chang would not find themselves in a similar position.

Ms Sturgeon replied: “I cannot and I will not give an assurance that no patient will ever again find they cannot access a drug that they think in all sincerity they should. In any system that has to assess drugs there will inevitably be hard decisions that are difficult for all of us where drugs are not accessible for a particular patient.”

Mrs Maclean-Chang said: “I’m delighted I can now get this drug. However, I’m not the only woman who has to go through this confusing and illogical system.  We need to fix this mess once and for all, not just for me, but for every woman with my disease.” 

A spokeswoman for NHS Grampian said: “The Medical Director for NHS Grampian has reviewed the recent Individual Patient Treatment Request (IPTR) decision relating to the provision of Kadcyla for this patient. He has spoken with panel members and the patient’s treating clinician to understand the context and circumstances.  Having considered the unusual circumstances of this case the Medical Director has sanctioned the use of Kadcyla in this instance.​​“​​