HEALTH CHIEFS are denying a dedicated nurse life-prolonging treatment – because they say she has the wrong type of cancer.
Anna Flaws was given the devastating news that she was suffering from oesophageal cancer in November.
But despite a letter from her doctor recommending she receive the drug Herceptin, the NHS say she cannot have it.
Yesterday the 49-year-old said: “If I had breast cancer I could automatically get Herceptin.
“People had to fight to get the drug for breast cancer patients and I think it’s wrong for the NHS to differentiate between different types of cancer.
“You should get whatever treatment you need.
“I feel I’m being discriminated against just because I have a rarer form of cancer.
“If I lived in England, I’d receive the drugs for free.”
The mother-of-one from Leven in Fife is now struggling to raise around £15,000 to buy the drugs herself.
She said: “I was diagnosed last November and given around nine months to live – but I’m still here.
“My oncologist said I might be suitable for Herceptin.
“I underwent various tests and it was found I’m high in the Her 2 hormone, which is a requirement for the drug to be effective.”
But the request was rejected by both NHS Fife and the Scottish Medicines Consortium, a panel of experts who advise on the effectiveness of medication.
Anna said: “They both gave the same reason – basically that it was too dear and the benefits weren’t great enough.
“However, I’m very young to have cancer of the oesophagus.
“I don’t feel ill and I’ve got nothing else wrong with me, so the drug would help. I’ve now forked out around £6,500 but there’s no way I can afford to pay £15,000 for the full treatment – and I’d then have to pay for as long as I lived.”
Anna added: “I always believed if something ever went wrong with my health, the NHS would treat me.
“This is just about money – why else would they refuse to fund it?
“I feel like asking the NHS for my contributions back.”
The local Labour MP, Lindsay Roy, said he was appalled that Anna was being denied the drugs due to her postcode.
He said: “I want to know why Herceptin is available for breast cancer patients but not those with cancer of the oesophagus – and why it is available in England and not Scotland.
“It’s a scandal that this woman can’t get this treatment on the NHS just because she lives inScotland.
“This is a lady who has dedicated her life to improving the health and well-being of other people through the NHS over many years – yet when she needs help herself, she is turned down.”
Margaret Watt, of Scotland Patient Association, said: “It’s shocking. Where’s the compassion and understanding for the patients? If it was one of their families would they hold back?
“How do they expect this lady to find £15,000? Unless you are a millionaire or a billionaire you don’t have that money spare.
“It’s criminal. She’s not asking for the sun or the moon, she’s asking for life. They are denying her life and that’s got to be against her human rights.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish government commented: “Scotlandhas robust and transparent arrangements for the introduction of newly licensed clinically and cost-effective medicines to treat all conditions, including cancer, through the Scottish Medicines Consortium and Healthcare Improvement Scotland.
“Both operate independently from the Scottish government.
“Where the SMC does not recommend a medicine for routine use, NHS boards are not expected to make it routinely available.
“NHS boards have arrangements in place for clinical consideration of SMC ‘not recommended’ medicines in certain circumstances.
“Such clinical decisions are taken on a case-by-case basis.”