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Last Updated: Monday, 13 August 2007, 17:28 GMT 18:28 UK
Patient anger at cancer 'lottery'
Cancer sufferer John McNamara
Cancer sufferer John McNamara says he is fighting for others
A terminal cancer sufferer has hit out at what he says is a postcode lottery over the supply of a vital drug.

John McNamara, 47, from Harrogate, has been refused the drug Velcade for his bone marrow cancer, as his local NHS Trust will not pay for it.

He claims other patients in the same Leeds hospital are getting the drug, because they live in a different area.

The Trust says it has to take national advice on clinical benefits and cost effectiveness of different treatments.

The father-of-three was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2004.

He said North Yorkshire and York Primary Care Trust informed consultants at St James's Hospital in Leeds, where he is being treated, that it is not willing to fund a course of treatment with the drug.

Mr McNamara said he was aware that patients from West Yorkshire who are being looked after by his consultant haematologist have been treated with Velcade.

Refund scheme

Velcade is known to prolong patients' lives by up to five years and a 24-week course costs about 21,000.

Mr McNamara, from Pannal near Harrogate, said: "I was close to breaking down when I heard what the PCT had decided.

"But we have decided that the PCT cannot be allowed to get away with this, not only for my sake but for any other patients who find themselves in the position I am in."

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) has recommended a scheme to fund the drug bortezomib (commonly known as Velcade) for multiple myeloma sufferers in England and Wales who respond well to it.

Under the scheme - the first of its kind considered by Nice - the drug's manufacturer would refund the NHS when the treatment does not work.

Treatments 'changing'

A spokesman for North Yorkshire and York Primary Care Trust said: "As the general public would expect, the PCT is not willing to comment on the details of an individual patient case as we take the issue of patient confidentiality extremely seriously.

"It is, however, important to note that treatments for cancer are constantly changing as new drug treatments and regimes are introduced.

"The PCT has to ensure that its commissioning plans accurately reflect the up-to-date position in terms of the clinical benefit and cost effectiveness of different treatments.

"Nice provides advice and guidance on new treatments and the PCT considers special requests for treatment for patients in light of national and local guidance."

One of three campaigning West Yorkshire women who are now receiving the drug under the Nice-recommended reimbursement scheme said she was "devastated" over the North Yorks Trust decision.

Jacky Pickles commented: "I'm back at work as a midwife. I have the drug now and I believe everyone should have the same chance. We will fight for John."

John McNamara on having treatment witheld

Velcade Three welcome NHS scheme
04 Jun 07 |  West Yorkshire

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