Monday, 18 February 2008

Cancer-drug campaigner who exposed NHS postcode lottery dies aged 47

Published Date: 18 February 2008
By Paul Jeeves

A CANCER patient who was initially denied a vital drug to prolong his life by a financially stricken Yorkshire health trust has died.

John McNamara lost his battle against a bone marrow cancer, multiple myeloma, over the weekend, six months after the Yorkshire Post revealed his plight.The 47-year-old father-of-three, from Pannal, near Harrrogate, was refused a course of the drug, Velcade, while other patients atthe same Yorkshire hospital received the treatment.The decision by the North Yorkshire and York Primary Care Trust (PCT) not to fund the treatment sparked increasing concerns over the nation's so-called healthcare postcode lottery, where patients throughout the UK are being given significantly different standards of treatment.A close friend, Robert Holmes, of Alwoodley, Leeds, said: "John didn't do self pity. He loved life and remained brave, cheerful and optimistic to the end.

"John always hoped that his campaign to get Velcade would benefit not just himself but other patients who had fallen victim to the absurd postcode lottery within the NHS."Family and friends launched a campaign to overturn the decision of the PCT, which was battling debts of £32m at the time.The drug, which blitzes cancerous cells far more effectively than previous treatments, is known to prolong patients' lives by up to five years.

A 24-week course of Velcade costs about £21,000.The PCT eventually relented and announced Mr McNamara would be given the treatment following a fresh appeal by his doctors at St James's Hospital in Leeds.The National Institute for Clinical Excellence announced a pioneering agreement in October where the NHS pays for the drug if it proves successful, while the manufacturer picks up the costs if it does not. However, until the announcement it had been up to PCTs to decide individually on funding.