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Adams calls for end to bureaucratic block on cancer drugs

27 May, 2016 - by Gerry Adams

Sinn Féin leader and Louth TD Gerry Adams has expressed his “deep concern at the failure of the government and the HSE to clear the use of life saving new drugs for cancer patients.”

Teachta Adams submitted PQs to the Minister for Health on the issue following contact from a constituent in Louth who is currently involved in the clinical trial of immunotherapy combination treatment with the drugs Nivolumab (Opdivo) and Ipilimumab (Yervoy)

Gerry Adams said:

"My constituent reports that she is in complete remission having received this combined immunotherapy treatment since the clinical trial began in 2013.  The results for her have been staggering and I believe the vast majority of those involved in the clinical trial report the same.

“In addition, the media today have reported that 100 cancer patients across the state have been receiving pembro (pembrolizumab) regularly as a treatment for cancer. The manufacturers made the drug available last year as part of compassionate use programme.

“Pembro has been described as ‘game changing’ by oncologists treating cancer patients.  Critically, as well as saving lives, it has also been demonstrated that the provision of pembro is cost effective to the state.

“The delay in making pembro available within the health service is being blamed on the failure of the HSE’s drugs committee to sign off on it. The committee has apparently not met since March.

“This is an unacceptable delay. There is also real concern at the imminent end of a second compassionate use programme for another drug, nivolizumab. The Minister for Health Simon Harris should move urgently to clear any bureaucratic block and ensure that cancer patients have access to pembro and other proven immunotherapies.

“The survival rate as a result of the use of these drugs has been greatly enhanced. The government has a responsibility to ensure that lifesaving drugs that are cost effective are available for patients.” 

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