End breast cancer postcode lottery
Gran Suzanne gets to see her beloved family just a few times a year because she has to stay in England because her vital breast cancer drug isn’t available up here
A POSTCODE lottery means Scots women with incurable breast cancer are being refused a life-extending drug while their neighbours in England have been getting it for years.
Perjeta, a targeted therapy for women with HER2 positive metastasised breast cancer, can give women an extra 16 months of life – vital time to spend creating memories wth loved ones.
It has been available to women in England for several years but the Scottish Medicines Consortium have twice refused to allow it on the NHS.
Women need to take the drug with their first treatment for the metastasised cancer and while the SMC, drug manufacturers Roche and the Scottish Government drag their heels over its approval, hundreds of women are losing their chance of life.
And for every woman denied treatment, there are partners, parents, kids, grandkids and friends who are denied the right to spend extra time with loved ones.
The injustice of the situation is also keeping families apart, with some women being forced to leave Scotland to live in England where they can receive treatment.
Cancer is a cruel enough illness without adding the extra punishment of being separated from those you love most.
It is time for the SMC, Roche and the Scottish Government to hammer out a deal to give women the right to live and stop families being kept apart when they need each other the most.
A GRANNY has been torn apart from her beloved family because the vital life-extending drug she needs is not available in Scotland.
Suzanne Hickling, 55, has to make do with visits a few times a year instead of being able to buy a home near her son and his family in Greengairs, near Airdrie.
Instead of being able to take her eldest grandchild to school and spend quality time with her and her little brother, Suzanne lives from week to week 447 miles away.
All she wants to be able to do is create special memories with her son Mark, his partner and their little ones while she is still well enough but the drug she needs to extend her life, Perjeta, is not available on the NHS in Scotland.
And today, on Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day, she is begging drug company Roche, the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) and the Scottish Government to ensure the drug is made available in Scotland to stop more families being forced to live apart.
Roche have resubmitted an application to the SMC for it to be made available to all who need it on Scotland’s NHS but it is unlikely there will be a decision before the end of the year. And there are no guarantees it will be approved.
Perjeta has been available on the NHS in England under the cancer drugs fund for several years.
But the drug, for metastatic HER2 positive breast cancer, has been rejected by the Scottish Medicines Consortium on four occasions.
Trials show it can give women an extra 16 months – vital extra time with friends and family.
Suzanne, who lives in Hampshire, was diagnosed with primary breast cancer in 2009 and had a mastectomy as well as courses of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
But her life was about to change dramatically.
Suzanne said: “It was just an off-the-cuff remark that I felt a bit more tired than normal that the oncologist picked up on and sent me for a blood test and a CT scan. That confirmed that I had liver and lung metastases. “It was a bombshell.” She went through chemotherapy once more and when she got the HER2 positive diagnosis, she was given Perjeta.
Suzanne said: “I really wanted to go to live beside Mark, his fiancee, Mary, and my only grandchild at the time, Molly.
Suzanne was an associate nursing practitioner helping palliative patients so she is well aware of what is in front of her and wants to spend quality time with Molly, now four, and her little brother Rory, two, before it is too late.
She said: “I know it sounds really morbid but I just want to be practical. I wanted to be remembered as a happy grandparent, a fun granny, not a poorly one
“When I found out I couldn’t get Perjeta in Scotland, it was awful. My world just collapsed. Someone just pulled the rug out from underneath me.
“I was very emotional. I couldn’t see the best way to deal with things.” Suzanne now has to plan visits round her three-weekly treatment but can’t afford to head north as regularly as she would like.
She said: “If the drug was available, I would be in Scotland and I would be able to see my family every night if I wanted to.
“At the moment we rush around on visits doing every bit of tourist stuff we can to have quality time with the children. But I am guessing as the drug runs its course and my body doesn’t react as well, I won’t be able to do that as much.”
Pleading for the drug to be made available in Scotland she asked: “What price is a life?
“It would be amazing to give my grandchildren happy times. I don’t want them just to remember having to come down to visit me when I’m dying with tubes sticking out of me.”
CLOSE Suzanne with grandchildren Molly, four, and Rory, two