New cancer 'wonder drug' may be freely available by weekend
A new “wonder drug”, which Vicky Phelan believes saved her life, may be freely available to everyone with cervical cancer by the weekend.
This is according to Labour health spokesperson Alan Kelly who spoke to members of the media this afternoon outside Leinster House.
Joined by cervical cancer patients Vicky Phelan, Aine Morgan, and Tracey Brennan, Mr Kelly said a deal to make Pembrolizumab freely available can be done immediately.
“We’re here to say that we need equity of access to pembro, which has had such a dramatic impact on Vicki’s health and life,” he said.
"The women affected by cervical cancer need the Government to step up and ensure they have access to this drug.
“I believe this could be done immediately and be sorted by the weekend... But we really need to keep the pressure on to ensure it happens.”
Mr Kelly added that he has the backing of Health Minister Simon Harris.
“To be fair to Minister Harris, I believe he’s trying to ensure that the HSE, the NCPE and Professor Michael Barry will do a deal and I’m hopeful it will be done very soon.
“The best Christmas present that these ladies can get is that pembro is going to be available for them from here on in,” he said.
Ms Phelan, who has access to pembro, credits the drug to shrinking her tumours by 50pc.
Her campaigning ensured that all the other 221 women impacted by the CervicalCheck "debacle" have now been granted access to the wonder drug.
However, the Government is still withholding it from others who have the illness. Treatment with Pembro costs €8,500 every three weeks for those who foot the bill privately.
Co Galway musician Áine Morgan, who was diagnosed with advanced cervical cancer two years ago, is one of the women not entitled to take part in the clinical trial as she isn’t considered a suitable candidate.
“We shouldn’t have to put ourselves out there and fundraise for this drug. We need the government to push this now because we don’t have the luxury of time on our sides,” she said.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health said the that the Health Minister met with the HSE last week and is looking to address the matter further.
"The Minister met with the Health Service Executive and the Department of Health on Friday to discuss the expansion of Pembro," a spokesperson told Independent.ie.
"Minister Harris has listened to the concerns raised over the past number of weeks and is seeking to address the matter.
"The Minister for Health has now asked the Medicines Management Programme to ask what measures can be put in place to expand access to Pembro to all clinically suitable women with cervical cancer.
"This will be coupled with the move to HPV testing next year and the HPV vaccine for boys next year is part of a joined up effort to eradicate cervical cancer.
"The Minister expects to hear progress very shortly and will provide updates accordingly."