Hero campaigner Vicky: ‘Make drug available to all women with cervical cancer’
CAMPAIGNER Vicky Phelan has called for all women with cervical cancer to be given free access to an expensive drug she has credited with reducing her tumours.
The Kilkenny woman said the drug Pembrolizumab, which is free to all women who are suitable in the 221 CervicalCheck group, is paid for by the HSE and can cost €8,000 for a number of infusions.
However, all other cervical cancer patients do not have access the drug.
Speaking in the Dail yesterday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar promised to attempt to make the drug freely available to all women who have been diagnosed with cervical cancer.
Labour TD Alan Kelly called on Health Minister Simon Harris to make Pembrolizumab available for all cervical cancer patients who require it.
“Pembrolizumab has received much attention because of Vicky Phelan’s use of this drug. Pembro has had very significant effects on Vicky’s rumours and on her cancer and has given her a much better quality of life. It is a drug that has shown to have a significant impact on tumours in some cases of those affected,” he said.
“Currently, the drug is not on clinical trial, it is off licence. Leading Irish oncologists have requested that Pembro be made available on trial or a managed access scheme or for some method to be found so that it can be provided to cancer patients. Oncologists know that this drug has the benefit of allowing patients to be tested in advance to determine their potential response to it.
“Dr David Fennelly and Prof John Crown have written to the Minister for Health months ago with a proposal for making Pembro available. This was rejected.
“While I wholeheartedly agree with the 221 women affected by the CervicalCheck scandal having access to Pembro, there is now a clear inequity of access because other cervical cancer patients do not have access.
“It is morally right that the State as a gesture of good will is paying for this drug to those who have been affected by the cervical check crisis, but there needs to be equity of access for other women affected by this disease as well.”
Earlier this month Ms Phelan (pictured above recently after receiving an honorary doctorate at Waterford Institute of Technology), who is from Mooncoin, was recently named as Kilkenny Person of the Year at a ceremony in the Newpark Hotel.