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Women in Wales refused access to end of life cancer drug available to women in England and Scotland

Wed, 13/09/2017 - 16:51

The Welsh Government has decided that women with advanced stage cervical cancer in Wales are not to be given the same access to a potentially life-prolonging drug as women living in England and Scotland[1].

Bevacizumab (Avastin®) can offer patients with a non-curative diagnosis invaluable extra time at end of life increasing median survival by 3.7 months. Women in England can access the drug through the Cancer Drugs Fund and it is available on the NHS in Scotland. However, following a recommendation from the All-Wales Medicines Strategy Group, the Welsh Government has decided that it should not be routinely available within NHS Wales.

Robert Music, Chief Executive, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said: “It is extremely disappointing to learn that women with advanced staged cervical cancer are faced with a postcode lottery over treatment. It is simply not fair that women in Wales are not going to be granted the same access as women in the rest of the UK. There has been little advancement in treating advanced cervical cancer and Avastin presents the only option for women with late-stage diagnosis, providing invaluable time to spend with children, family and friends. While I accept NHS resources are not finite, a terminal cervical cancer diagnosis already brings extreme devastation and I am unhappy that differences in criteria for assessing medicines is leading to women in Wales facing a further challenge. I urge for the decision to be reconsidered.”

Debs who was diagnosed with incurable cervical cancer in 2014 aged 27, said: "I was diagnosed with cervical cancer three years ago and unfortunately there is no cure for my cancer. I live near Bristol and I am shocked that women affected by cervical cancer just a few miles away in Wales do not have the same access to a drug as important as Avastin as women in England. I have recently been given Avastin and up until the last few months it has shown an improvement in keeping my cancer stable, I feel sure without access to this treatment my cancer would be more progressed than it is now. Cervical cancer is a horrible disease, it is not fair that some women will be denied the opportunity to benefit from the only drug available for the disease simply because of where they live. I really hope that this changes.”

Kelly Maybury lives in Maesteg, Wales, her best friend Julia Walters said: “Kelly is just 36 and a mum of two. She was first diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2013 and, following chemotherapy and radiotherapy, returned back to work and carried on with her everyday life. In February 2016 she was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer, which has now spread to her kidney and her brain. Her cancer is terminal. Kelly’s oncologist said she could apply to our local health board for Avastin which will cut off the blood supply to the tumours and give her precious extra time to spend with her family. Despite fighting she was declined 3 times. If we lived in England or Scotland we would have access to this drug and Kelly feels let down by our country. Our small but wonderful community has set up Kelly's Wish using crowdfunding to raise the money she desperately needs, very gratefully we have raised £62,000 and the total is still climbing.”

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust support service user said: "My daughter had Avastin. The consultant made a special case for her. It didn't save her life, but it did give enough time for her and her brother to make up. They hadn't spoken for nearly a year and she got to see her beloved niece and nephew once more."

3,224 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer in the UK in 2014 with 164 in Wales. Bevacizumab, sometimes called by the drug name Avastin®, is a treatment for women who have recurrent or advanced stage cervical cancer. This treatment does not cure cervical cancer; it is a life-extending drug. On average, treatment with bevacizumab can lengthen life by approximately four months. It is also used to treat advanced bowel, breast and ovarian cancer.