Tony Watson wins NHS Lucentis drug refusal appeal

Tony Watson from Wokingham
Image caption Tony Watson has been appealing against the NHS's decision to refuse him Lucentis for 18 months

A Berkshire man with a rare eye disease has won an 18-month battle with the NHS to pay for his treatment.

Tony Watson, from Wokingham, is blind in one eye from neo vascularisation, a condition where abnormal blood vessels form behind the eye.

NHS Berkshire originally refused to treat him with the drug Lucentis, offering a cheaper alternative instead.

But the primary care trust (PCT) says recently reduced costs in manufacturing Lucentis now make it more affordable.

Lucentis previously cost around £700 per injection. When Mr Watson's condition became chronic last June, he was refused the drug on the NHS and offered Avastin, which cost £60 per injection.

His cardiologist and ophthalmologist advised he continue using Lucentis after he suffered two heart attacks. They believed Avastin could have had possible side effects on his heart.

'Scared and deflated'

"I lost sight in my left eye in 2007 and in 2010 the same thing began with my right eye," said Mr Watson.

"From then on, I had a scan every four weeks and if I needed it, Lucentis was provided through my private health care plan."

The PCT informed Mr Watson because of a lack of National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines over his condition, Lucentis would be too costly to provide on the NHS.

Mr Watson added: "A very cold, matter-of-fact letter came through the door one day telling me I would no longer qualify.

"At first you feel scared and deflated, but then you get a bit more passionate and say, 'it's not going to happen'."

With the help of evidence compiled by the RNIB and his specialists, Mr Watson eventually convinced health bosses to fund his Lucentis injections.

Clara Eaglen from the charity said: "A change in costs has led the PCT to change its mind, so it's unbelievable Mr Watson had to fight his corner.

"Everyone should have access to the drugs they need, especially if clinicians recommend them. Patient safety should take priority over cost."

An NHS Berkshire spokesman said: "The NHS is funded by the taxpayer and the PCT has a duty to spend money cost-effectively.

"Lucentis is an expensive drug, but the PCT has always funded Lucentis when recommended by NICE."

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