A TERMINALLY ill cancer patient from West Linton who was forced to spend £12,000 on a drug the NHS in Scotland would not pay for has called for a change to the availability of expensive treatments.
Ian Morrison was finally told last week that the NHS would pick up the tab for his remaining doses of Cetuximab – costing £5,000.
The drug is available in England and Europe, but not in Scotland, where it is only for special cases where a patient can prove they would benefit significantly.
Despite Mr Morrison, who has bowel and lung cancer, responding well, he has so far had to use pension funds and borrow cash, after his application for the £17,000, 20-week treatment was rejected.
The 56-year-old told TheSouthern: “I absolutely think there has to be a review of the system.
“There is a cross-party group at the Scottish Parliament set to look at it, but I do believe that it is a system that is not fit for purpose.
“We received a phone call last Thursday from one of the nurses at the Macmillan centre to say the tab would be picked up for the rest of my treatment. While I am very grateful, we have received no documents or letters explaining why the decision was overturned.
“We will be making attempts to find out why, but at this stage I do not know if I will get back the £12,000 we have so far spent on the drug.”
Mr Morrison, who has a wood-burning stove shop in the Peeblesshire village and is married to 49-year-old Jacqui, said Cetuximab is not effective for some people.
But since he started using the medicine, the growths on his liver have shrunk by two-thirds and the growths in his lungs have remained static.
He added: “We are in a position where we can scrape together the money by raiding pension funds, and borrowing from family, but others are not, and that is why the system needs changed.”
Mr Morrison praised Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale MSP Christine Grahame for her help which led to NHS Lothian, the trust responsible for making decisions on Borderers seeking cancer treatment, overturning its earlier decision to reject his individual patient treatment request.
Ms Grahame claims due process was not followed, but she understands NHS Borders will now foot most of the £12,000 Mr and Mrs Morrison have so far spent.
She told us: “A new Scottish Government fund to pay for medicines for patients with rare conditions should help people like Mr Morrison.
“Each case has to be judged on its merit, and there are budget restrictions.
“These drugs cost a lot of money and how long the medicine will extend the life of the patient has to be considered.
“There are some horrible decisions which have to be made, but in this case I am delighted for Mr and Mrs Morrison.”
Alison Wilson, director of pharmacy for NHS Borders, said there was an agreed process with the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) that approved drugs are provided on the NHS.
She added: “Non-approved medicines should not be used unless you can demonstrate that an individual will gain significantly more benefit from the intervention than might normally be expected from patients for whom NHS policy is not to use the medicine.
“For oncology treatments that are not SMC approved, NHS Borders works closely with NHS Lothian to ensure equity in dealing with such cases.”
Mr Morrison’s cancer fight inspired his wife to take part in a performance of The Calendar Girls last year in West Linton, which raised over £4,000 for the Margaret Kerr Unit Appeal and Macmillan nurses.
The couple pulled forward their wedding plans to November 2011 after Mr Morrison was diagnosed with bowel cancer the month before.