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Last Updated: Monday, 20 February 2006, 14:44 GMT
Cancer vigil woman meets minister
Jayne Sullivan
Jayne Sullivan was diagnosed with cancer in May 2005
The woman who staged a seven-day sit-in at the assembly over the availability of breast cancer drug Herceptin has met the Wales health minister.

Jayne Sullivan said she hoped Brian Gibbons would answer her questions on availability of the drug in Wales by this Friday.

Ms Sullivan, who has breast cancer, wants the drug made available to women in the early stages of the disease.

Dr Gibbons has not yet commented on the meeting.

An assembly government spokeswoman said earlier that the drug had not been licensed for use in early breast cancer treatment.

Ms Sullivan, 47, told BBC Wales she was assured by Welsh NHS head Anne Lloyd that she would write to health officials around Wales, asking them to set out the positions in their particular area.

She said: "They're planning to write this week and get an answer from mid and south Wales on this issue and hopefully the individuals that I've had on the vigil line, will have something formal as an answer by Friday on whether they can have this drug."

Ms Sullivan, from Old St Mellons, Cardiff, invited women who have had chemotherapy for breast cancer, but not been offered Herceptin, to contact her over a 24-hour period so she could pass on their details to Dr Gibbons.

I didn't realise how many women are in a similar position to myself
Jayne Sullivan

Recent research in the US has suggested the risk of tumours recurring with certain types of breast cancer can be cut by up to 50% if Herceptin is taken in the early stages of the disease.

All the women's names Ms Sullivan has compiled have breast cancer but none have been offered Herceptin or tested to see if it could help them.

Ms Sullivan said while manning the helpline: "I've already got all the names I need and they're still coming in.

"I only want to humanise this issue, but I've been very touched by the calls and I also find it very concerning.

"I didn't realise how many women are in a similar position to myself. We need a directive in Wales."

'Waste'

Ms Sullivan is prepared to take her fight to Downing Street if she does not get a satisfactory response from Dr Gibbons.

She told BBC Wales' Politics Show on Sunday: "My calculations indicate [there are] 2,000 women in the UK who are at risk prior to the licence being granted.

"It will probably cost about 50m if it was centrally government-funded [to treat them with Herceptin, in order to save these 2,000 lives.

"Not a great deal of money when you look at the waste in all areas of government funding."

But an assembly government spokeswoman has said funding the drug in Wales was not the issue since the drug had not been licensed for use in early breast cancer treatment.

Ms Sullivan started her campaign on 1 February with a seven-day sit-in at the foyer of the former main assembly building, Crickhowell House.

At present in the UK, Herceptin is only routinely prescribed on the NHS to women with advanced breast cancer.




SEE ALSO:
Woman loses Herceptin court bid
15 Feb 06 |  Health
Vigil-line for cancer protester
13 Feb 06 |  South East Wales
Woman's 30,000 cancer drug bill
13 Jan 06 |  South West Wales


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