Cancer drug 'must be available on NHS'

A MAN whose partner's battle against cancer was transformed after she trialled a new cancer drug has called for it to be made widely available on the NHS.

A MAN whose partner's battle against cancer was transformed after she trialled a new cancer drug has called for it to be made widely available on the NHS.

Margaret Hurrell was 65 when she lost her battle against bowel cancer at the start of the month, but she had been given a massive boost after starting on a new drug which shrunk the tumour by a third within months.

Now her partner of 17 years, Nick Garner, is campaigning for Erbitux to be made available on the NHS, saying the costs pale into insignificance compared to the vast sums spent on the military.

Mrs Hurrell was diagnosed with bowel cancer in Spring 2002 and had a successful operation to remove the tumour.

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But doctors later told Mrs Hurrell it had spread to her liver and the mother-of-two battled the disease for two years as she received both chemotherapy and radiotherapy leaving her drained and tired.

But she was given the devastating news its had spread to her liver and there was nothing more that could be done.

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The family started making plans for her funeral, but just when it looked as though all hope was lost she was offered the chance to try a new tumour shrinking drug which only targets cancerous cells.

Deciding there was nothing to lose, Mrs Hurrell started taking the once-a-week drug known called Erbitux.

Within 12 weeks her tumour had shrunk dramatically and within 24 weeks it was a third smaller.

Yesterday Mr Garner, 51, from Chelmsford said his partner had been transformed after starting the treatment.

He said: “Within a few weeks we had noticed the improvement, I remember one day she decided she would walk into town which was about a 20 minutes walk and then wandered around town with a friend.

“She had some lunch, hung the washing out and went to Ongar on the bus and then suddenly thought 'hang on' I have not done anything like this for two years.

“Margaret would forget she had cancer and she was so like her old self once again.”

Mr Garner, an antiques dealer, has made it his mission to spread the word of the wonder drug, which would cost £25,000 for a year's course, and push for its inclusion on the NHS.

“£25,000 pounds a year to give somebody and the people around them back that person they knew before cancer - that quality of life as opposed to £1 million for a cruise missile. How can you compare?”

Last night, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: “Erbitux is licensed in the UK for the treatment of advanced colorectal cancer in combination with Irinotecan and can be prescribed on the NHS for those patients who meet the licensed criteria. It will be for clinicians to determine if a patient will benefit from being treated with Erbitux.

“Erbitux is awaiting National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) appraisal, but in August 1999 the department issued a health service circular which asks NHS bodies to continue with local arrangements for the managed introduction of new technologies/drugs where guidance from NICE is not available.

“These arrangements should involve an assessment of the available evidence. The Department of Health has made it clear to health authorities and primary care trusts, that funding for treatments should not be withheld simply because guidance from NICE is unavailable.”

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