Page last updated at 12:08 GMT, Monday, 21 August 2006 13:08 UK

'I will die' without cancer drug

Lynn Novak

Lynn Novak is one of thousands of bowel cancer sufferers in the UK who will be affected by a decision not to make two drugs widely available on the NHS.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) said there was not enough evidence to recommend Avastin and Erbitux for treatment.

But Mrs Novak, from Copthorne, near Crawley in West Sussex, said she could not pay for Avastin herself anymore.

"It's just given me a new life. I will die without this drug," she said.

At an average cost per course of treatment of £17,665, Mrs Novak has spent at least £30,000 on Avastin since it was first recommended by her specialist in December last year.

Tumours shrunk

She was diagnosed with bowel cancer two years ago and it subsequently spread to her liver.

Eight months ago she was told she "only had six months to live at the rate the tumours were growing".

But taking Avastin has extended her life expectancy and apparently seen her tumours shrink in size.

"The good thing about this drug is that you can stay on it indefinitely to keep you alive.

"I'm just a different person. I'm alive, I'm well, I can do things. I'm just normal me."

There was insufficient clinical evidence to support Mrs Novak's request
Crawley Primary Care Trust

Mrs Novak's requests for Avastin to be funded by her local health authority have twice been turned down by a Patients With Individual Needs panel.

"One of the reasons Crawley Primary Care Trust (PCT) gave me was that it's not a cure," she said.

"We know it's not a cure.

"Renal dialysis for kidney patients is not a cure, [but] without it after three weeks they will die."

The PCT said the panel's refusal to fund Avastin for Mrs Novak was "because there was insufficient clinical evidence to support the request".

That ruling has now been confirmed by Nice's decision not to approve Avastin and Erbitux for NHS treatment.

But charities like Bowel Cancer UK and Beating Bowel Cancer argue that the drugs are the best option for extending the life expectancy of seriously ill patients.

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