Belfast Telegraph

Terminally ill woman denied drug forces trust to review ruling

By Victoria O'Hara

A woman has said she is now “one step closer” to having the NHS fund a cancer drug that will extend her life.

Carol Parkinson, who has breast cancer, was told by the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust last October she did not meet the criteria for the revolutionary drug Lapatinib, a drug that could prolong her life by a year.

It emerged during a court hearing yesterday that the trust has now agreed to review that decision. After the decision, Mrs Parkinson's legal team withdrew the application for a judicial review to try and overturn the trust's move to refuse the funding.

The west Belfast mother-of-one was originally told she did not meet the necessary criteria, and is fundraising to pay £1,300 every three weeks for the drug.

When launching the bid for the judicial review, her barrister, Frank O'Donoghue QC, had claimed breaches to Mrs Parkinson's rights to protection from inhuman or degrading treatment, and to private and family life under European law.

After it was formally dismissed yesterday following the move by the trust, Mrs Parkinson (42), who has been battling breast cancer since 2004, described it as a “major step forward”.

“I am absolutely delighted to see they will re-examine my case. This was the whole crux of my journey for the last seven months,” she said. “I'm doing exceptionally well at present and we will have to wait and see what happens, but I’m one step closer.”

Mrs Parkinson added: “But I had to fight to get answers. Now, if they are going to re-examine this for me, and hopefully for other women in the future, this could be something that can help other people.”

The case could have major implications for the procedures used by clinicians when deciding whether the NHS should pay for new drugs in Northern Ireland.

Speaking after the hearing, Joe Kelly, a member of her legal team, said: “We agreed to withdraw our application on the basis the trust has agreed to review the original decision taken in October to refuse funding.

“They've agreed that they will use the old test and take into account Carol's present condition and any medical evidence that we provide on that basis. It is a positive step forward.”

A Belfast Health and Social Services Trust spokeswoman said: “We recognise the complex and sensitive issues involved with this case. We will remain in contact with the patient and maintain their treatment and care at the Cancer Centre.”

Background

For many women with aggressive forms of cancer and who initially respond to treatment with Herceptin and chemotherapy, the cancer will start to grow again within a year of starting treatment. Lapatinib is specifically targeted at patients facing this situation, a stage at which there are very few treatment options available. Lapatinib comes in tablet form (right) and is a type of biological therapy.

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