Page last updated at 09:08 GMT, Thursday, 29 April 2010 10:08 UK

Kent cancer mother wins battle for Sunitinib drug

Nikki Phelps
Nikki Phelps has won her fight to have her cancer drugs paid for by the NHS

A Kent mother-of-two who is dying from a rare form of glandular cancer has won her fight to have a life-prolonging drug paid for by the NHS.

Nikki Phelps, 37, of Luddesdown, appealed against a decision by NHS West Kent not to pay for the drug Sunitinib.

She and her husband had faced selling their home to pay for the treatment.

NHS West Kent said: "After reviewing the current application for the cancer treatment Sunitinib, NHS West Kent has decided to fund the drug in this case."

The NHS trust also agreed to backdate its decision to 1 February, repaying £9,150 the couple had already spent.

Many people have made the point very strongly that they regard the ability of the NHS to extend life as being of special importance
Andrew Dillon, NICE chief executive

Mrs Phelps, who has two-year-old twin boys with her husband Bill, had spent her £6,000 life savings on the drug, but needed £36,000 for a year's supply.

Previously, NHS West Kent said there was not enough evidence it would be effective and refused to authorise payment.

Mrs Phelps had been told by her consultant the drug was the only one that could help prolong her life.

The former primary school teacher was first diagnosed with cancer 10 years ago before being given the all-clear in 2002.

But after giving birth through IVF treatment in November 2007, the disease returned and she had a tumour removed in January 2009.

Extending life

In February 2009, the NHS drugs watchdog NICE approved Sunitinib in principle as a kidney cancer drug which could increase survival by a year.

Sunitinib was one of the first drugs to be approved under new guidance urging a more liberal approach to treatments which only marginally extend life.

At the time, NICE's chief executive Andrew Dillon said: "Many people have made the point very strongly that they regard the ability of the NHS to extend life as being of special importance.

"And so we looked at the way our advisory committees go about valuing extension to life."

Earlier this month, NICE said Sunitinib had not been approved for Mrs Phelps's condition, which was named as multiple endocrine neoplasia.

It also said the drug had not been referred to NICE for appraisal, in relation to her specific illness.

Bill Phelps

Nikki Phelps' husband, Bill, said he was delighted at the decision to allow her to have a drug paid for by the NHS

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