A seriously ill mum-of-two has spoken of her devastation after being denied a life prolonging cancer drug – because she lives just HALF A MILE over the Welsh border.
Joannah Houghton, 47, was told she was not eligible for the palliative medication Avastin because there is no NHS funding for the drug in Wales.
In a cruel twist of fate, the NHS worker of 22 years would have been entitled for it if she lived just THREE minutes down the road in England.
Joannah, of Chirk, North Wales, has told of her heartbreak now that her life could be cruelly cut short as a result of a cancer postcode lottery.
She would qualify for Avastin if she lived just half a mile further west but cannot afford to move house after she was forced to quit her job due to her illness.
She fumed: “I feel upset extremely angry and let down by the Welsh health authorities especially when I have dedicated 22 years of my life as a health care professional.
“I have worked half my life for the NHS yet it comes down to a postcode lottery, which is just not right.
“I was told if I changed my address the circumstances might be different.
“But why should I have to move house to gain access to something that could prolong my life?
“I can’t afford to move, I haven’t built up a great pension because my work has been cut short by an illness I never asked for.
“Also they might still reject my request because its obvious I have moved just for the drug.
“It’s just crazy. When I found out about this medication I thought it was great and then to be told I can’t have it feels absolutely awful.
“They are literally playing with people’s lives.
“I’m currently appealing the decision via an individual patient funding request form, which has already been rejected once.
“I’m in limbo at the moment, the weeks are passing and I need this drug.
“But I’m not willing to let this go when this is a drug that would help me and prolong my life.
“I’m not just doing this for my life but I’m fighting for other patients in Wales who are too scared to speak out and who may suffer a similar fate in future.”
Joannah, who lives with partner Tim, 42, and their two children Ryan, 19, and Emily, 22, was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2016.
The disease has since spread to her lymph nodes and lungs.
She has been given five to seven years to live and travels over the border to have chemotherapy sessions at Clatterbridge Hospital, in Wirral, Merseyside.
Joannah who works as a new born baby screener at Wrexham Maelor Hospital, added: “I was told the cancer was incurable back in 2016.
“I’ve had 25 radiotherapies and five chemotherapies as well as three brachytherapies.
“Avastin is a drug that could prolong my life but whether you are entitled to have it depends on where you live.
“I am having six sessions of chemotherapy every three weeks, but my oncologist at Clatterbridge told me NHS Wales had questioned the use of Avastin to run alongside my other two cancer drugs Paclitaxel and Carboplatin.
“But the Avastin is a targeted therapy which will shrink the tumours.
“I haven’t asked how many years this drug could add to my life, it’s not something I really wanted to know.
“My consultant had put in the forms for the individual patient funding request around February 21 this year.
“I then got a call last week my consultants assistant to tell me that the form had been rejected but with no reason as to why.
“One of the reasons why the form would be approved is if I’d advanced cervical cancer, which is exactly what I have.
“I’m just waiting for a response as to why my individual patient funding request was rejected.
“This fight has taken my mind away from all the negative thoughts and the chemo
“I’m one of those people who keeps positive and if you look at me you would not think I was a cancer patient.
“I believe there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
Joannah’s case has now been taken up by Pamela Northcott Fund, a charity which supports cancer patients denied access to new drug therapies yet to be approved by NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence)
While women in England can access Avastin through the Cancer Drugs Fund and it is available on the NHS in Scotland, the Welsh Government’s All-Wales Medicines Strategy Group (AWMSG) has recommended against it being routinely used on the NHS.
A Welsh Government spokesman said: “The AWMSG examined the evidence for using Avastin to treat recurrent or advanced cervical cancer and recommended against its routine use.
“Where a treatment is not routinely available in the Welsh NHS, but a clinician thinks that his or her patient is likely to gain significant clinical benefit from the treatment, the clinician may make an Individual Patient Funding Request to the health board on the patient’s behalf.”