Sunday 17 December 2017

Woman battling cancer for past 11 years feels 'worthless' as government refuses to pay for drugs

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)

Sarah Jane Murphy

A terminally ill woman has said that the state's refusal to pay for her cancer treatment drug has made her feel "worthless".

Margaret Reidy, who has been valiantly batting cancer for the past 11 years, said that a drug called T-DM1 is her best chance in her ongoing fight.

"My survival instinct is really strong and this really is my last option," she said.

Ms Reidy said she is angry that cancer patients who would benefit from T-DM1 are being denied the treatment while the government continue with negotiations with manufacturers.

"It makes being terminally ill more difficult to know that you are approaching the end of the road and there's something that could help that you aren't getting the opportunity to try," she told Newstalk's Lunchtime.

The T-DM1 drug is designed to seek out and destroy cancerous cells while sparing healthy tissue from unnecessary damage.

As a result, Ms Reidy explained that the patient can experience less hair loss, nausea and diarrhea.

"It's a very expensive drug. It costs between €65,000 and €85,000 depending on the weight of the patient and the stage that the illness is at," she said.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar answered a question relating to Ms Reidy's case yesterday.

"It would be wrong for me as a minister to intervene to change scientific fact that can't be overturned," he said.

In response to Mr Varadkar's comments, Ms Reidy said: "All I asked him to do was to find out why it's taken so long for this medicine to be introduced."

Getting emotional, she explained how she copes with cancer in the long term.

"You get your treatment and try to forget about the cancer and live your life," she said.

"You get as much as you possibly can out of life. I set myself a goal of 5 years at the start.

"Then I was doing well so I said I'll aim for another three or four years.

"I have my 60th birthday in April next year and I hope to be here for that," she added.

A spokeswoman for the HSE told today:

"The drug in question is being considered under the national medicines pricing and reimbursement assessment processes. 

"As the process is still on-going the HSE cannot discuss potential outcomes at this time."

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