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Patient Wins His Drug Battle

Patient Wins His Drug Battle.

Byline: By Gayle Tomlinson Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England), December 17, 2005

Mesothelioma sufferer Bill Short has today come a step closer to gaining life-extending cancer treatment.

Mr Short, 74, from Wallsend, has been told by the Northern Cancer Network (NCN) he is free to ask for the chemotherapy treatment Alimta on the NHS.

His solicitors, Irwin Mitchell, were sent a letter this week telling him he could soon be among the first to receive the drug.

The news comes after the NCN made a U-turn last week.

It decided to prescribe the drug ( which can extend the life of mesothelioma patients by three months ( after a campaign by the Chronicle.

Up until Friday the drug was not available on the NHS in the North East, even though patients in Liverpool, Scotland and London could get it.

Instead, those in the North East were having to pay pounds 24,000 to get the drug privately.

Irwin Mitchell, which has offices in Newcastle, launched a fight on Mr Short's behalf to get Alimta available to him.

It threatened legal proceedings against the North Tyneside Primary Care Trust to put pressure on the NCN.

After a meeting of strategic health authority chief executives they decided to make the drug available.

Work is now being carried out on guidelines to determine exactly who will benefit from Alimta.

Mr Short, who is currently in North Tyneside Hospital, has been fighting the asbestos-related condition since August.

He was exposed to asbestos during his work at Blyth Power Station.

He is now waiting to speak to his consultant to find out when he can get the treatment.

His daughter, Susan Reay, said: "This is good news but we still need to speak to my dad's consultant to find out when they can give him the drug.

"He could be one of the first to get the drug, but he must first get stronger. It'll be up to his doctors."

Mr Short's legal representative, Mhairi Walker, said: "This is a marvellous development. Mr Short and his family can now look to the future with renewed optimism.

"He has already been through enough and can now move on and enjoy a better quality of life.

"Last week's decision by the health authority to provide Alimta was also great news for all mesothelioma victims who have been trying to access this health treatment.

"It removes the injustice of the postcode lottery that has affected all those in the North East."