Welsh man with terminal cancer to move into caravan in England to access NHS drug that could extend his life
A man with terminal cancer may have to move to a caravan in England to access a drug on the NHS which could extend his life.
David Southwood, 53, says without the drug his life would be limited to a couple of months at most.
But with the drug axitinib, available on the NHS in England, he says he could live another year or more.
Yesterday health minister Mark Drakeford reiterated Welsh Government opposition to a Cancer Drugs Fund for Wales, mirroring that which exists in England fthat can provide access to treatments like that which David might benefit from.
After he took a turn for the worse this week, David and his wife Angela dipped into their life savings to fund the kidney cancer drug themselves, costing £3,711 for 28 days.
But they have already sold their car and cannot afford to continue paying each month so have registered a caravan across the border on Burnham-on-Sea, owned by Mr Southwood’s mother, as their part-time address.
David said: “I have worked all my life and paid my taxes. It goes against my principals to buy this drug, but we had to do it to keep me alive.
“We have been waiting for the drug to become available on the NHS for months. If I wait until December or January I probably won’t be here.
“It’s quite disturbing. There’s so much to think about – if I move to England I may lose the consultant I’ve had for the last two years. I have family in South Wales and no family at all in England so it would be isolating as well to stay there.”
He was diagnosed with advanced renal cell carcinoma (affecting the kidneys) in 2012 and since then the cancer has spread to his throat, adrenal glands, pancreas and duodenum.
His wife of 26 years Angela Southwood said: “If we lived a few miles away in England he would be able to get access to this drug which could potentially extend his life.
“My husband didn’t want to use our life savings, but I have got to give him the chance.”
Mr Southwood still runs J&S Property Services, a small business employing five people.
He has been taking sirolimus since January 2013 when he wasn’t given very long to live but responded so well to the drugs that things started looking up.
However his cancer is no longer responding and he has been waiting for axitinib to be made available in Wales since June.
His doctor at Beechwood Surgery requested a referral to England but received a letter from the health board stating that a further application has to be completed showing that David is significantly different to the general population of patients.
Mrs Southwood said: “Perhaps someone can explain to me why as a UK citizen he is different to the population in the UK that is eligible to receive the drugs.
“To move away from family to have access to the drugs at a difficult time anyway seems totally unfair.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We are unable to comment on individual cases.
“In determining the effectiveness of medicines such as axitinib and their potential to benefit patients, we are guided by the recommendations of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), and the All Wales Medicines Strategy Group (AWMSG).
“If either of these bodies recommends the use of a medicine it will be made available to patients in Wales for treatment of the relevant indication.
“Axitinib is currently being appraised by NICE and in March 2014 it issued interim guidance, for consultation. This guidance recommended axitinib as an option for the treatment of advanced renal cell carcinoma. We were expecting the final appraisal to be published in early summer but NICE suspended the process on June 20.
“We have subsequently had discussions with the manufacturer but currently have no information about when the appraisal process will be completed and whether the final advice will be positive or negative.”
An Aneurin Bevan University Health Board spokesman said: “It would be inappropriate to comment on individual cases in detail. In some cases where a drug has not been made routinely available by the All Wales Medicines Strategy Group or NICE there is a process by which clinicians can provide evidence and apply for exceptionality where they believe a patient would benefit from treatment with that drug”