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NHS couldn't give AA Gill the treatment to help buy him more time

By Ryan Wilkinson

In his final article, revered critic AA Gill described how the NHS could not give him a cutting-edge, potentially life-extending cancer treatment but triumphed on a human level where private healthcare does not.

Described as "a giant among journalists", the Sunday Times columnist died on Saturday, aged 62, three weeks after revealing he had the "full English" of cancers.

Gill said he had been denied an expensive therapy - costing up to £100,000 a year - that may have helped him live "considerably" longer and is the weapon of choice for "every oncologist in the First World".

The former smoker was diagnosed with lung cancer that had spread to his neck and pancreas, with tumours that were inoperable and unsuitable for radiotherapy, after noticing his health was failing in the autumn.

He described how he was told by a consultant oncologist that a pioneering new treatment for cancer, immunotherapy, would give him his best chance at fighting the disease, but it was not available on the NHS.

"The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), the quango that acts as the quartermaster for the health service, won't pay," he wrote.

The consultant told Gill that the treatment would be "particularly successful" with his kind of cancer, but told his wife Nicola Formby: "If he had insurance, I'd put him on immunotherapy - specifically, nivolumab. As would every oncologist in the First World. But I can't do it on the National Health."

Gill said the prohibitive cost of nivolumab was £60,000 to £100,000 a year for a lung cancer patient, around four times the cost of chemotherapy.

However, he said that "old men who think they're going to die anyway aren't very effective activists" and do not see the "public or press pressure that young mothers' cancers and kids' diseases get".

Gill eventually underwent a course of platinum chemotherapy at the Charing Cross Hospital in London.

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