A SERIOUSLY ill Ripley woman has blasted a recommendation to stop funding life-saving ‘wonder’ drugs.
Jacqui Beresford, a mother-of-three, of Providence Street, was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) in August last year.
Last week her body became resistant to the drug imatinib, which she has been taking for the extremely rare condition. This would normally mean she would be given a different, ‘second line’, course of drugs.
But this week the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) announced it could no longer approve funding for the ‘second line’ treatments offered to patients developing a resistance to imatinib, saying they were too expensive. If the guidelines are finalised in June, the NHS will cease to offer the ‘second line’ treatments on prescription.
It means the 38-year-old former self-employed cleaner now fears she will have to undergo a risky bone marrow biopsy in order to survive.
Jacqui said: “It is a wonder drug really as long as you are young enough and fit enough to cope with it. It seems that because we are in the minority that our lives are expendable. If I don’t get this drug then I may have to have a bone marrow transplant.”
The mother-of-three says she wants other sufferers using imatinib to appeal NICE’s decision. Patients and family can visit www.nice.org.uk to make comments about the decision. These comments will be considered by a NICE committee in June before a permanent ruling is made. An online petition is being started by a CML support group which can be joined at www.cmlsupport.org.uk.
The ‘second line’ drugs such as nilatinib cost more than £30,000 per patient per year, says NICE. Due to the nature of the condition, such drugs need to be taken for the rest of the patient’s life.
Chief executive at NICE, Andrew Dillon, said the evidence for the effectiveness of the second line drugs was “weak”. He added: “When we recommend the use of very expensive treatments, we need to be confident that they bring sufficient additional benefit to justify their cost.”
Professor Charles Craddock, of Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in Birmingham, is Jacqui’s consultant haematologist. He has supported his patient’s decision to appeal the NICE recommendation. However he has advised anyone concerned that there will be other ways to get hold of the ‘second line’ drugs if the NICE recommendation is made final. He said: “I’ve no reason to believe that we will not be able to access this drug in a timely way from the Cancer Drugs Fund. But in the long and medium term it is my feeling it would be good for NICE to approve these treatments.”