“Time is of the essence” in getting Pembro drug to cervical cancer patients

Galway Daily news Galway TD says time is of the essence in making Pembro drug available to cervical cancer patients

A Galway TD has said that the rate at which the experimental drug Pembro is being made available to cervical cancer patients is unacceptable.

Treatments with the cervical cancer drug Pembrolizumab for 221 women affected by the CervicalCheck scandal are being paid for by the government.

It was announced in December that the drug would be made available to all women with cervical cancer who were deemed viable under plans announced by Health Minister Simon Harris.

However Galway-Roscommon TD Michael Fitzmaurice claims that little progress has been made in the weeks since then on providing state-funded access to the drug.

Commenting on the matter, Deputy Fitzmaurice said: “It is totally unacceptable that little or no progress has been made on this matter.”

“Time is of the essence for a lot of these women, and their families, and they must not be forced to endure any further unnecessary delays; clarity on the matter is required for everyone involved.”

The Pembro treatment is not currently licensed in Europe to be used for cervical cancer, but was provided to the CervivalCheck victims off license.

Prominent campaigner for their cause Vicky Phelan has said that her cancer has improved since she began the treatment.

Among those who have gained access to Pembro through this trial is well known Loughrea singer Aine Morgan.

Aine was one of a group of people who travelled to Leinster House in December to put pressure on the government to make the drug available to them.

She had been fundraising earlier in the year to pay for the cost of treatments herself.

A single dose of Pembro currently costs €8,500, but the head of the National Centre of Pharmaeconomics has said the NCPE would be able to negotiate with drug manufacturers for a better price.

Professor Barry added that not all patients will respond to Pembro and will be reassessed after six to eight months to see what the effect has been.

“As it stands, women caught up in the CervicalCheck scandal are already benefiting from access to the Pembro drug thanks to State funding,” Deputy Fitzmaurice said.

“So it is totally unfair that other eligible patients are being delayed from receiving beneficial treatment as a result of red tape.”

Deputy Fitzmaurice concluded by saying the minister should “show leadership” and allocate funds for the roll out of Pembro as soon as possible.