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Wales deserves cancer treatment equity

Communities across Wales should no longer be forced to tolerate a system of cancer treatment that is not on a par with England.

That’s the call from Welsh Conservatives, who have today renewed their plea for an end to the unfair postcode lottery for cancer patients in Wales and improved access to modern treatments.

The comments come as two cancer patients bring stories of their fights for Avastin to the Assembly this week.

Readily available via the Cancer Drugs Fund in England, Avastin – which has the potential to extend lives – is not as accessible in Wales.

Rosemary Greenslade, from Clydach, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012 and was initially refused the drug. After paying a sum of approximately 20 thousand pounds to obtain a course of Avastin herself, Rosemary’s second application to Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board was successful.

The 58 year old is now campaigning for a cancer drugs fund in Wales and spoke to media in the Assembly this morning:

“My long battle for Avastin funding has been a successful one and for that I remain absolutely delighted. The support I received was tremendous and I will be forever grateful.

“My aim now is to help as many other people as possible.

“I believe that Wales should have a cancer drugs fund and I will continue fighting passionately for it.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Ann Wilkinson, of Usk, will hand over a petition with almost 100,000 signatures on the Senedd steps. In her 70s, Ann will deliver the petition to Monmouth Assembly Member Nick Ramsay at 1pm. She will be accompanied by a large group of campaigners from her town, all of whom are demanding a Welsh cancer drugs fund.

Ann has now obtained Avastin through her health board after initially being refused the drug.

Repeated calls for a cancer drugs fund in Wales have been ignored by the Welsh Labour government. Despite this, recent research by the Rarer Cancers Foundation found patients in Wales are four times less likely to receive new treatment than those in England.

A Welsh Conservative debate – calling for the establishment of a Cancer Treatments Fund for Wales – will be held in the Senedd on Wednesday afternoon.

The fund would provide for:

• Increased access to cancer drugs in Wales.

• Increased access to modern radiotherapy treatments, such as stereotactic radiotherapy.

• An expansion of mobile cancer treatment centres.

The full list of cancer drugs currently available to English patients via the Cancer Drugs Fund is available here:

Abiraterone/Aflibercept/Albumin Bound Paclitaxel/Axitinib/Bendamustine/Bevacizumab/Bortezomib/Bosutinib/Brentuximab/Cabazitaxel/Cabozantinib/Cetuximab/Clofarabine/Crizotinib/Dabrafenib/Dasatinib/Enzalutamide/Eribulin/Everolimus/Imatinib/Lapatinib/Lenalidomide/Nelarabine/Ofatumumab/Panitumumab/Pazopanib/Pegylated Liposomal Doxorubicin/Pemetrexed/Peptide Receptor Radionucleotide Therapy (Lutetium177 Octreotate or Yttrium90 Octreotide/ Octreotate)/Pertuzumab/Pomalidomide/Ponatinib/Radium-223 Dichloride/Regorafenib/Ruxolitinib/Sorafenib/Sunitinib/Temsirolimus/Trastuzumab Emtansine (Kadcyla)/Vandetinib/Vismodegib

Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Health, Darren Millar AM, said

“On access to cancer drugs – equity in Labour-run Wales is desperately needed. That much is very clear.

“The current differences within Wales and between England and Wales are an astonishing injustice and every heart-breaking story of impeded access is unwarranted, unnecessary, and unfair.

“Obtaining drugs that have the potential to improve and prolong lives is not only devastatingly difficult in Wales, it is simply not on a par with the relative ease granted to English patients.

“Politicians of all colours have had contact with cancer patients dumped in desperation by the Welsh system – and the cases I have dealt with will remain with me forever.

“It’s now time for the inequality to end.

“One tragic case of time lost is one tragic case too many. Wales deserves a cancer treatments fund and I urge Labour’s First Minister to establish one at the earliest opportunity.”

South Wales West Assembly Byron Davies represents Rosemary Greenslade and has worked with her on her own personal fight to obtain Avastin through her health board.

He said:

“Rosemary has shown exceptional courage in her campaign to get the funding she needs for this drug.

“Her decision to keep fighting for others in the same position is hugely inspiring.

“It is cases like Rosemary’s that highlight a clear and desperate need for easier access to cancer treatments in Wales.”