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2,000 Thank-Yous

Byline: By Gayle Tomlinson Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England), December 14, 2005

Chronicle army backs our campaign

More than 2,200 people have given their backing to the Chronicle's Give Us a Chance campaign.

Signatures have flooded in since we launched a petition calling for chemotherapy drug Alimta to be made available on the NHS.

The Chronicle's campaign was successful on Friday when the Northern Cancer Network said mesothelioma patients in the North East would be able to get the drug.

The first treatments are expected to be carried out within weeks.

Before Friday, people with mesothelioma faced paying up to pounds 24,000 at a private hospital for the drug, which can extend the lives of sufferers by up to three months.

Petitions are still flooding into our offices from supporters who feel so strongly about making the cancer drug free to people who have been exposed to asbestos.

In the last five days almost 800 petitions have been sent in by post or through the Chronicle's website.

Another 1,500 have been collected by mesothelioma sufferer Arthur Tiffin, 52, from Walbottle, Newcastle.

Mr Tiffin fought to make the drug available after he was told he would have to get it privately.

He faced selling his house and spending cash he had saved to support his wife and two children.

He has now been told he will be able to get the drug on the NHS at St Bartholomew's Hospital in London. And he may soon have the option to receive it in the North East for free.

He said: "It is brilliant that people are giving us so much support. We need to hang on to these petitions as proof of how strong people feel about this."

Newcastle United heroes Michael Owen and Alan Shearer were among those who signed the petition.

Petitions have also been sent in from staff at McNulty Offshore in South Shields, accountants KPMG, South Tyneside Council, Newcastle City Council, staff at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead, Mental Health Matters in Sunderland and whole streets in Wallsend, Gateshead and Walker.

The Chronicle's campaign started last week after six North East men told us of their battle to get the cancer drug.

They had all been told they needed Alimta to extend their lives or they would die from mesothelioma in months.

Alimta costs pounds 9,600 for a course of six sessions but the Northern Cancer Network said it was not cost effective.

Health chiefs yesterday said they are now talking with hospital consultants to decide on guidelines for prescribing the drug.

A spokeswoman said the procedure should be completed within two weeks.

Anyone who has mesothelioma and believes they are entitled to Alimta should get in touch with their doctor.