Patient's new chance after drug U-turn

A cancer patient who was denied drugs on the NHS is celebrating after health bosses reversed their decision. David Blackett, 65, from Bunwell, has been paying for the drug Sutent to treat his kidney cancer because the NHS would not fund it.

A cancer patient who was denied drugs on the NHS is celebrating after health bosses reversed their decision.

David Blackett, 65, from Bunwell, has been paying for the drug Sutent to treat his kidney cancer because the NHS would not fund it.

But now he is being prescribed the drugs for free after an influential committee at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) overturned the decision. And Mr Blackett said the really good news is that his wife will now be able to give up work, and is going to retire at Christmas.

He was diagnosed with lung and kidney cancer in February but was told he could not get the drug, which prolongs lives, because it was not available to all patients on NHS shelves. Now he said he has been given a second lease of life.


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It is the second time in a month a patient has had a decision reversed on drugs which were previously not available to them - Tony Burke from Wymondham having been given the drug Velcade to treat bone marrow cancer Myeloma after an appeal.

Mr Blackett said he is pleased to be given a “second chance” after paying for the treatment for several months himself.

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“My consultant managed to prove to the hospital that the drug was working so they overturned the decision. There is proof it actually works and because of this we do not have to use our savings to pay for drugs,” he said.

“I am very relieved and pleased. When you are ill it is enough of a worry to deal with that but when you have to pay for drugs it is more of a headache. I just hope that other patients get the same treatment because if there is proof something works then it is a good reason it should be funded.”

The tumour on his kidney has reduced by about 11mm and the one on his lungs by 7mm - proof the drug has been working.

The drug and therapeutics committee at the NNUH, which considers applications from patients, has supported Mr Blackett's case, and he has been approached by a French company that wants to include his story in a feature on the issue.

In a debate earlier this week on the treatment of rare and complex medical conditions, Dr Ian Gibson, MP for Norwich North, used Mr Blackett's case as an example to call for radical change in the treatment of rare cancers.

The Government is currently undertaking an inquiry into the problems associated with patients topping up payments on their drugs. Using a recent report from the Rare Cancers Forum called “Taking Exception”, Dr Gibson Acalled for a “new methodology for assessing the clinical value more in line with other European countries and negotiated by a joint organisation and not individual Primary Care Trusts”.

A spokesman from the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital said: “Last Wednesday, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital's Drugs and Therapeutics Committee conditionally approved an application for Sutent on the grounds of an individual patient's exceptional circumstances.

“The role of the hospital's D&T committee, which is composed of doctors and pharmacists, is to co-ordinate the introduction of new drugs and extended use of existing medicines through the independent review of all applications. In exceptional cases, if the D&T believes there is a good case for NHS funding, the case will be sent to the PCT for consideration.”

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