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Funchion seeks commitment from Minister on life-saving cancer treatment Pembrolizumab for Kilkenny man

15 May, 2019 - by Kathleen Funchion TD

Speaking in the Dáil today, Sinn Féin TD for Carlow/Kilkenny Kathleen Funchion said that a definite commitment was needed from the Minister for Health to meet with the fundraising committee for Kilkenny’s John Holmes, so that access to Pembrolizumab was approved for his type of cancer.

Teachta Funchion said:

“This is an issue that is hugely important to the people of Kilkenny. We need a firm commitment from the Minister to meet with the fundraising committee ‘John Needs Pembro’ which has taken on the task of routinely raising funds for John Holme’s treatment which comes at an unbelievable cost of approximately €5000 per injection at each treatment. 

“The critical point is that this treatment for John’s type of cancer is working and has proven to be successful. The drug which is called pembrolizumab is currently available for the treatment of patients with other certain types of cancers in this country, most notably cervical cancer.

“So, not only does the drug exist, but it’s being administered in Ireland and is manufactured in our bordering county of Carlow.

“The fact that John Holmes is not being administered it by the HSE is just another example of the two-tier health system we are all too familiar. John Holmes is a Kilkenny man who has had to resort to having friends and family establish a fundraising committee in order that he can access the drug pembrolizumab. The drug is not available to Mr. Holmes, but it is available to other patients with other types of cancer. We are seeking a firm commitment from the Minister that he will meet Mr Holmes and his fundraising committee to discuss the matter, that he will examine the position and not simply kick the can down the road.

“The Minister needs to examine the options in front of him. He needs to work with the committee to find a solution so that John Holmes can get access to this vital drug because it is working and, thankfully, he has seen results from it. However, time is of the essence.” 

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