December 7, 2022

PEMBRO SCANDAL: Kilkenny TD tells Minister – ‘meet with John Homes, not department officials’

KILKENNY TD Kathleen Funchion has called on Health Minister Simon Harris to have a face-to-face meeting with a seriously-ill Kilkenny man who is being denied access to a life-saving drug.

Minister Harris failed to give specific answers when asked if local man John Holmes (pictured above) would be given access to the drug Pembrolizumab (Pembro) during an interview with KCLR’s Eimear Ni Bhraonáin yesterday.

Mr Holmes currently has to pay for the life-saving cancer drug through private fundraising via the ‘John Needs Pembro’ Campaign. Each injection costs him over €50,000 and, controversially, is also subject to a 23% tax.

The Kilkenny man is due to have his next injection in a few weeks’ time.

When quizzed on the matter, Minister Harris said: “I’m going to look at that VAT issue, it’s not that straightforward to fix but I’ll certainly talk to the Department of Finance and see if there is anything we can do.”

He added: “Perhaps we could look at a scheme for people who are privately fund raising for drugs. I’ll talk to colleagues on that and come back to John.”

However, Kilkenny TD Kathleen Funchion, who raised the matter with her constituency colleague John McGuinness in the Dáil last week, said the minister should be discussing the matter directly with Mr Holmes, rather than department officials, if he wants to get a real understanding of the issue.

Deputy Funchion (pictured below) told “We want Minister Harris to meet with John Holmes and discuss the matter in detail with him. It’s not his colleagues he needs to speak to – he’s the minister and he has the power to make that decision – he has to speak to John.”

The Kilkenny TD said she and Deputy McGuinness will continue to raise the issue in the Dáil over the coming weeks if the minister fails to respond.

She added: “The situation with Pembro is that it’s already available here and people are getting it. All of the cervical cancer women are getting it thanks to the efforts of Vicky Phelan.

“All it needs in this case is for someone to sign a document for John Holmes to get it. It’s very frustrating, but we will keep raising this until someone does listen.”

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