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Health News

Protesters demand NHS kidney cancer treatment rethink

Dozens of kidney cancer sufferers and their families protested today over the refusal to allow patients treatments on the NHS.

Protesters gathered outside the headquarters of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) in Holborn, central London, waving placards insisting they "deserved the right to life".

Nice issued draft guidance earlier this month rejecting the drugs Sutent (sunitinib), Avastin (bevacizumab), Nexavar (sorafenib) and Torisel (temsirolimus).

The draft guidance, which is subject to appeal, rejects the drugs, saying they are not cost effective for patients with advanced and/or metastatic kidney cancer.

Although the medicines do not cure the cancer, they do extend a person's life by a matter of months.

Patients and their families handed letters to the organisation calling for a rethink of the guidance.

Broadcaster James Whale, who lost a kidney to cancer in 2000, was among protesters.

He said: "I want the chairman of Nice to come down and speak to these people. I want him to look in to the eyes of the people whose lives he would cut short.

"These faceless bureaucrats are trying to stop people's lives."

Roger Grace, 60, from south Devon, said he was only given six months to live before he started taking the drug Sutent.

"It has kept me alive for two years. I'm living proof that this drug works.

"It is absolutely imperative that other people are given these drugs. It needs to be available to everyone who has a clinical need for it.

"It needs to be decided by consultants and not by the accountants at Nice."

Jean Murphy, 63, from Salford, was diagnosed with kidney cancer in July 2007. She started taking Sutent three weeks ago after an anonymous donor gave her £10,000.

She said: "It has made me feel more like my old self and I've only been on it for three weeks. Last week I went shopping for the first time in eight months, that's how well I'm feeling.

"I am here to support all these people. I feel very angry about what Nice are doing.

"My professor and other professors have said how good this drug is.

"Lots of people have worked hard and put money in to the country and now they can't get it. I never thought I would see the day when this country would do that."

Her daughter Cathy Ostasz said she felt as if a price had been put on her mother's life.

"In my letter to Nice I said they were condemning kidney cancer patients to an early death."

Today's protest comes after a group of 26 leading UK cancer experts wrote to a Sunday newspaper to say they were "dismayed" at the guidance.