Page last updated at 06:25 GMT, Wednesday, 24 September 2008 07:25 UK

The Price of Life

In 2007, 49-year-old Andy Crabb, a father of three and grandfather of nine, was diagnosed with kidney cancer. His illness was so severe that he was told he had only months to live.

Andy Crabb
Andy Crabb was not given the drugs he needs by his local PCT

Andy's consultant suggested that he started an experimental drug trial, but the side effects were so severe that Andy had to stop it.

By now he was bedridden and extremely ill.

Andy's oncologist then applied for a new and expensive drug called Sutent.

It would not cure him, but it was hoped that it would stop his tumours growing and improve and extend his life.

However, Andy's local health authority - Oxfordshire Primary Care Trust - said it only provides Sutent for exceptional cases, and they ruled that Andy's case was not exceptional.


Though planning to appeal against this decision, Andy and his wife Diane felt that since his condition was deteriorating rapidly, their only choice was to pay for the drug privately.

Andy's wife Diane said: "I think it's disgraceful, absolutely disgraceful. Why do we have to pay for it when it should be available on the NHS?"

Using money gained by fundraising from friends and family, Andy was able to start paying for the treatment in May 2008.

Kate Spall, a health campaigner who has helped Andy and Diane, says the couple are not alone in having to fundraise to pay for a life-extending treatment.

"I think it's disgusting they are having to fundraise for this treatment," she said. "I can't imagine how Andy must feel - (it) must put so much pressure on them."

The drug costs Andy, a former bricklayer, around 3,400 every six weeks, but he only has enough money to last until the new year.

After that, unless he has persuaded his PCT to give him the drug on the NHS, he may have to sell his house in order to keep paying for the drug.

Postcode lottery

Andy Crabb
Andy is determined that he will live life to the full, despite his cancer

If Andy lived in the neighbouring county of Buckinghamshire, however, things might have been different.

Although his own PCT only provided Sutent to one person out of the 13 who applied for it last year, Buckinghamshire PCT provided it to 13 of the 15 people who applied.

Living in a different area could have meant Andy got the life-extending drug his oncologist recommended without having to worry about raising nearly 30,000 a year.

Despite the pressure Andy is under to find the money to pay for his drugs, he remains optimistic.

He said: "Some people just get told that they've got cancer, and give up, I think.

"You either go one way or the other and I've definitely gone the other thinking, 'Well, I've got to go and live life to the full'."

Dom's on the Case, a five-part investigation into the NHS continues on Wednesday, 24th September, 2008 at 9:15am on BBC One.


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