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Wilshere becomes charity ambassador

England and Arsenal footballer Jack Wilshere has called on the NHS to fund a breakthrough drug that could help boys su ffering from a muscle-wasting condition.

The drug can slow down the effects of Duchenne muscular dystrophy and delay the need for children to use a wheelchair.

Translarna is already available in many European countries and NHS England is due to make a decision on its use by the end of next month.

Duchenne usually affects boys in early childhood and the life expectancy of sufferers is around 30.

Wilshere, 23, highlighted the importance of Translarna as he announced his appointment as an ambassador of the charity Muscular Dystrophy UK.

"I did a little bit of research, looked it up online and knew that there was a decision pending this summer," he said.

"I think if we all come together and show our support for it we can really make a big difference because you can see the devastating effect it has on not just the child affected but the families around them.

"I think it can make a real difference."

Wilshere's first task in his new role was to play football with a group of children who suffer from muscle-wasting conditions.

One of the boys who took part was 10 -year-old Archie Hill, who suffers from Duchenne.

Wilshere struck up a friendship with the Hill family after Archie mentioned during a breakfast television interview that the England star was his favourite footballer.

Asked why he decided to become a charity ambassador, Wilshere said: "I met a really inspirational family, the Hills. I went round there and met little Archie.

"It had a big impact on me. I wanted to come together with them and the rest of the families who suffer from the disease and really make a difference."

Prime Minister David Cameron raised the issue of treatment in the House of Commons, saying he wanted to see vital drugs licensed as quickly as possible, after receiving a letter from Archie.

The boy's mother, Louisa, 40, from C halfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire, claimed the introduction of Translarna would allow him to "continue to be a child".

She said: "We're all praying that it's going to be a yes to Archie and all the children suffering from Duchenne."

Archie's father, Gary, 50, added that the support of Wilshere means a lot to his son.

"It brings happiness to him," he said. "Obviously the condition he has is very serious so for him to meet his idol and have a kick around, it's just fantastic to see a boy having the time of his life with a big smile on his face."

Robert Meadowcroft, chief executive of Muscular Dystrophy UK, described Wilshere's decision to become an ambassador as "a huge step for the charity".

Mr Meadowcroft said: "He will help enormously to raise public awareness of what are largely unknown conditions."

Around 70,000 people live with muscle-wasting conditions in the UK.

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