Drugs not yet available in UK ‘keeping Megrahi alive’

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A LEADING cancer specialist has said it is likely that the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi is being kept alive by pills not available in the UK.

Professor Roger Kirby said a new hormone-based therapy may explain why he is alive two years after he was given three months to live.

He also said Megrahi’s release from prison was based on flawed medical advice.

Tomorrow marks the second anniversary of the early release of Megrahi on compassionate grounds. The Scottish Government said the decision taken by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to release Megrahi was made in good faith and on the best information available.

Megrahi, who had been diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer, was freed from Greenock Prison on August 20 2009.

He had been jailed in 2001 after being convicted of killing 270 people in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 four days before Christmas in 1988. After serving nearly eight years of a 27-year sentence, he was released and returned to Libya.

Prof Kirby, of The Prostate Centre in London, said he believed the Lockerbie bomber was “almost certainly” being kept alive by a drug called abiraterone.

The hormone-based therapy has been passed for use in America, but is not yet available to patients in the UK.

Prof Kirby added that the decision to free Megrahi was based on flawed medical advice. He said it was foolhardy to put a three-month prognosis on his survival because advances in treatment could keep him alive for longer – maybe even several more years.

But the Scottish Government said its decision to release Megrahi was taken in good faith and based on medical advice from Dr Andrew Fraser, the director of health and care of the Scottish Prison Service, who it described as a professional of impeccable integrity.

Despite anger from critics of the decision, others have hit out at the “annual Lockerbie bomber blood fest”.

Some relatives of victims, and other campaigners, believe Megrahi is innocent, or that all legal avenues have not yet been followed through in the case.

Robert Forrester, of the Justice for Megrahi campaign, writing in the Scottish Review, said: “Here we go again. As the date of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi’s compassionate release approaches, we enter what has become the annual Lockerbie bomber blood fest.”

The campaign group wants an independent inquiry to look again at the conviction.

Scottish Conservative justice spokesman John Lamont said: “Many in Scotland must feel that the Scottish people have been let down by two governments – Alex Salmond’s at Holyrood and Gordon Brown’s at Westminster. The suspicion lingers that this was not a decision based on facts, but that facts were found to fit a decision already taken and leaked to the Libyans.”

A spokesman for Mr MacAskill said: “The decision was made following the due process of Scots law, and the fact remains that Megrahi has a terminal illness and is dying of prostate cancer.”

laura.cummings@edinburghnews.com