Cancer Focus NI makes final call to support Equal Access to cancer drugs

Roisin Foster, Cancer Focus NI with cancer patients Allister Murphy and Gary Vint (R) call on the Health Minister to provide clarification around a review promised to look at the availability of cancer drugs in Northern Ireland. The Equal Access campaign, led by Cancer Focus NI and supported by 14 local charities, calls for local patients to get the same access to 38 life extending cancer drugs as patients in England. Visit www.equalaccessni.org to back the campaign.
Roisin Foster, Cancer Focus NI with cancer patients Allister Murphy and Gary Vint (R) call on the Health Minister to provide clarification around a review promised to look at the availability of cancer drugs in Northern Ireland. The Equal Access campaign, led by Cancer Focus NI and supported by 14 local charities, calls for local patients to get the same access to 38 life extending cancer drugs as patients in England. Visit www.equalaccessni.org to back the campaign.

Cancer Focus Northern Ireland is making a final call to the people of Ballymoney and Moyle to pledge their support for equal access to cancer drugs in NI before 7th October. To date only 750 pledges for the charity’s Equal Access campaign have been made from the north Antrim area.

Cancer Focus NI Chief Executive, Roisin Foster, said: “There are currently 40 cancer drugs available to patients in England that are not readily available to patients in Northern Ireland. Every year there are 500 patients here who could benefit from these specialist drugs. The aim of the campaign is to do away with this obvious inequality to ensure that the most effective drugs will be made available to local cancer patients in their time of need.

“There has been great support for our campaign right across Northern Ireland: we have received 16,000 pledges of support to date but still need your help to reach our 20,000 target. If you haven’t yet pledged your support please visit www.equalaccessni.org before 7th October when we will present the campaign to Stormont.”

Cancer Focus NI has lobbied the Executive on the restricted access of end-of-life cancer drugs in Northern Ireland for a number of years. With the recent announcement of the new Health Minister, Jim Wells, the charity is working to ensure the issue is still top priority for the Executive and that the Minister will honour his predecessor’s commitment to find a resolution to this inequality once and for all.

Mrs Foster continued: “Cancer patients want decisive action to improve access to drugs that could extend their lives, improve their quality of life and ease symptoms. Last week the new Health Minister indicated that there will be an evaluation of the current cancer drug approval process by the end of the year, which is a move in the right direction. However, the time taken for this review to be put in place is precious time that our cancer patients do not have.

“We need more robust acknowledgement by the Department of Health that there is a major problem in access to specialist cancer drugs. And indeed the problem is growing – when we launched our Equal Access campaign in June there were 38 cancer drugs that patients in NI couldn’t readily access; now that number has increased to 40.

“Our hope when we present the campaign to Stormont on 7th October is that the level of support demonstrated by the NI public will persuade our politicians to act without further delay.”

Roisin Foster reinforced: “Unfortunately there are very few people who have not been touched by cancer. The message is clear – we’re calling for the public to back our Equal Access campaign. Visit www.equalaccessni.org to pledge your support before 7th October.”