Lymington Times – 21 January 2006
In a stunning U-turn, the NHS has approved potentially life-saving treatment for a Brockenhurst cancer patient. As previously reported in the A&T, Brian Jago (69), of Waters Green, had been denied the breaktrough drug Velcade by Southampton and Winchester District prescribing committee on grounds that it was too expensive and that there was insufficient evidence of the drug's benefit, despite the recommendation of Mr Jago's consultant.
The case attracted national publicity, and in a recent letter to Julian Lewis, MP for New Forest East, Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust Chief Executive, Sir Ian Carruthers, said:
"In light of the individual circumstances of Mr Jago, and with advice from the Central South Coast Cancer Network, the Trust has reconsidered the use of Velcade in the treatment of Mr Jago and, as a result, a course of treatment has been approved".
The news of the treatment approval came as a surprise to Mr Jago, who suffers from multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer, and had, up until now, been faced with paying for the £15,000 treatment himself. A retired engineer with four children and seven grandchildren, he had failed to respond to chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant before turning to Velcade as his last hope. But now, with a course of treatment due to start this week, Mr Jago's outlook has changed dramatically.
"I'm absolutely thrilled to bits at the decision to approve the treatment,"
he told he A&T earlier this week.
"This treatment could extend my life, or give me a better quality of life. It could also give me the opportunity to spend more time with my family and grandchildren."
Mr Jago was also eager to express his thanks for all the help he has received.
"I have had absolutely wonderful support,"
Mr Jago said.
"The International Myeloma Foundation has been brilliant, as has the Wessex Myeloma Support Group, who are based in New Milton.
"The church I attend, All Saints' in Hordle, sent a petition to both Tony Blair and Patricia Hewitt demanding I get the treatment. I have also had the support of some people I do not even know who have sent me letters of encouragement, but I have previously had no way of thanking them. I am extremely grateful to all who have supported me."
Perhaps the .most significant support came from Dr Lewis, who attacked NHS executives in the House of Commons Christmas Adjournment Debate, describing the situation as “ludicrous” and accusing the regional health authority of smoke-screening a cost cutting agenda.
“I am very relieved that the desperately unfair situation faced by Brian and his family has now been resolved,"
Dr Lewis said.
"The role of the press in publicising it has been of great importance, and will, I trust, help to ensure that other cancer victims are not caught up in a similar life and death postcode lottery."
Controversy initially arose over the use of Velcade when NHS executives in England refused to licence the drug, despite it being available in 40 countries worldwide including Scotland, Wales, and much of Europe. The licensing body dealing with Velcade, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence had said that it would not authorise the drug for at least another 18 months.
However, following Mr Jago's breakthrough case, the outlook for myeloma sufferers in need of Velcade looks more optimistic. Mr Jago said:
"The approval of my treatment has restored my faith in the National Health Service. I just hope that it can bring hope to others who follow behind me, and open up opportunities for myeloma sufferers across the country."