Cancer patient Kirsty ‘paid £10k for drug available with NHS England’

Kirsty Howard and husband David have had to find the money themselves.
Kirsty Howard and husband David have had to find the money themselves.
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A WOMAN living with breast cancer is backing a campaign aimed at making a drug that prolongs life by up to sixteen months available in Scotland.

Kirsty Howard from Baberton, was forced to fork out over £10,000 for three doses of Pertuzumab, after the drug which is available on the NHS in England was rejected last summer by the Scottish Medicines Consortium because it cost too much.

The 34-year-old told the Evening News that her world was “turned upside down” after she received a breast cancer diagnosis at the Western General Hospital in October 2017.

She was diagnosed with triple positive breast cancer, being oestrogen and progesterone positive along with HER2+, which meant the cancer has receptors for hormones and proteins that help the disease spread.

Kirsty is now supporting the Just Treatment campaign group which is urging Nicola Sturgeon to introduce a Crown Use Licence to bring down the price of the drug – which would overturn drug giant Roche’s patent and end the company’s 20-year monopoly.

At present Pertuzumab, which goes by the brand name Perjeta, costs £2,395 for one vial which equates to around £10,000 for the maximum recommended four cycles used before surgery, or approximately £43,908 for a year’s treatment.

Kirsty said: “My world was turned upside down when I received a breast cancer diagnoses. What had been such a happy time in my life with a new house, enjoyable job and the thought of starting a family in the future with my husband, had turned into the worst time of my life.

“The day I met my oncologist mid November 2017, I quickly learnt that there was a targeted therapy drug, specifically for Her2+ breast cancer called pertuzumab, which has been showing great results and is available on the NHS in England, but unfortunately not in Scotland.

“As I do not have any private medical insurance, the only access to this vitally important drug would come at a price tag of £10,500 for the three required doses alongside chemotherapy. As if myself and my husband David didn’t have enough to deal with already with my shock diagnosis, we now had the added stress and worry of knowing about a very important drug, which my oncologist was strongly behind, that was not routinely available due to the high costs set by the drug company.”

Kirsty added: “We were fortunate that with the help of close family, through personal savings, we were able to pay for me to receive pertuzumab. This decision had to be made and the funds found within a period of around seven weeks. Sadly, this is not the case for everyone and some people may not be as fortunate to be able to get the money together to pay the ridiculous amount for three doses of a drug.

“It makes me so angry that for all the money that goes into research for new life saving drugs, the drug companies completely over-price the drugs.”