South East Wales

Cardiff woman plans move to England to fund cancer drug

A Cardiff woman terminally ill with bowel cancer says she may move to England to receive potentially life-prolonging drugs on the NHS.

Lorraine Redmond has been refused the drug Avastin by her local health board and has been paying for it herself.

Cancer support groups say it is unfair some drugs are freely available in England but not Wales.

The health board said it carefully considered if there were "exceptional circumstances" before making decisions.

The Welsh Government said it spends more per head on treating patients with cancer than the NHS in England.

Ms Redmond said self-funding the drug will cost her £20,000 a year and part of the proceeds from selling her house for a smaller one will be to raise funds.

'Move on my own'

She said there is a chance she could get the treatment on the NHS in England, but still hopes a fund for the drug can be established in Wales.

"I don't want to move to England because my family are here and I can't uproot my family because my children are in college," she told BBC Wales.

"I'll just have to move on my own."

The UK government has launched a Cancer Drugs Fund, which allows patients in England to access certain drugs from the £200m available a year.

According to recent research, there are now 22 drugs available to patients in England that cannot be accessed by those in Wales.

Double standards

Andrew Wilson of the Rarer Cancers Foundation said. "We know of at least two other cases where patients have moved from south Wales to Bristol in order to get the drugs they need on the NHS."

Nick Phillips from Bowel Cancer Wales, whose wife Marcia died from the disease five years ago, said it was unfair that patients in Wales could not access drugs on the NHS while those in England could.

"Marcia was diagnosed in October - she was dead by Christmas," said Mr Phillips, whose wife did not get life-extending drugs.

"She was denied the drug. If she could have had an extra six months to prolong her life, that would've been marvellous.

"The effects are that we're losing approximately 30 to 50 cancer patients a year through not having the funding."

The Conservatives included a commitment to a Welsh Cancer Drugs Fund in their manifesto for this year's assembly elections.

Leader Andrew RT Davies said it would have cost £12m a year and could have been funded by making the more wealthy pay for their prescriptions.

He said: "What is social justice? A millionaire getting paracetamol [free]? Or a terminal cancer patient getting a cancer drug that could prolong her life? I think the answer is very obvious, it's the cancer drugs fund we need in Wales."

Dr Sharon Hopkins, executive director of public health at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, said it could not comment on individual patient cases.

But she said they understood how distressing it could be for those trying to access treatments not approved by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE).

"The panel always takes into account recommendations from NICE and the All Wales Medicines Strategy Group and carefully considers if there are any exceptional clinical circumstances before taking such difficult decisions," said Dr Hopkins.

"Cardiff and Vale UHB, and all health boards across Wales, have a duty to take such decisions and make sure that our limited resources deliver the best possible patient care."

Extend life

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "We do not see a need for a separate cancer drug fund in Wales.

"We already spend approximately £5 more per head of population than England on cancer treatment. Even with the additional £200m available in England, it is still less than what we spend per head in Wales.

"All new drugs that are deemed clinically and cost effective by NICE or the All Wales Medicines Strategy Group are provided on the NHS.

"Where these drugs are not approved, or are waiting approval, mechanisms are in place to ensure consistent access for patients in exceptional circumstances.

"All patients continue to receive a comprehensive package of NHS treatment and care at all times to meet their clinical needs, even where a new drug is not prescribed.

"It is important to note that these drugs do not save lives, but can, where deemed effective, extend life for a short time."

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