A Northampton man who began a petition to stop his life-saving cancer medication being cut from the NHS is more than halfway to having the issue potentially debated heard in Parliament.
Richard Bassett has had the petition signed by more 69,00 people, but needs at least 100,000 if it is to be considered for debate in the House of Commons.
The 27-year-old meteorology PhD student, from Abington Avenue, suffers from a rare type of stomach cancer called Wildtype GIST (Gastronintestinal Stromal Tumour). There are three types of medicine that can treat it, including regorafenib, which was recently cut from the latest Cancer Drugs Funding (CDF) list.
Mr Bassett said: “One of the drugs doesn’t work for me and the other, which I am currently using, will eventually need to be upgraded to regorafenib.
“If it is no longer available then the truth is, when my current medicine stops working, then that’s it. I’ll be left to die.
Although NHS England have said that the cut will save millions of pounds that can be reinvested into other treatments, Mr Bassett said: “There are only about 29 GIST patients who need the drug to live normal lives, which cannot cost that much in the grand scheme of things.”
Regorafenib can be bought privately, but costs £1,000 per week and would be needed by the patient on a constant basis.
An online petition to have the decision reviewed in Parliament and the drug reinstated for public funding was launched by Mr Bassett’s partner, Victoria Janes. His brother then came up with the idea of a further social media campaign entitled ‘#100,000 voices will help keep me alive’ to help generate attention.
The campaign has since been noticed and retweeted by celebrities such as Russell Brand, Lorraine Kelly and Kym Marsh.
But it needs to reach the target 100,000 signatures before Parliament dissolves for the general elections on March 30.
If it is no longer available, when my current medicine stops working then that’s it. I’ll be left to die.Richard Bassett
Miss Janes said: “The withdrawal of this drug from the fund means that patients whose GIST cancer is inoperable or has spread widely and is not being contained by the first and second line treatments licensed in the UK will have no other treatment options, and will die sooner than might have been the case when their cancer grows out of control.”
Commenting on the reason for the #100,000 campaign to boost publicity for the petition she added: “We are struggling to gain wide publicity of the issue as larger national cancer charities, such as Macmillan Cancer Support, are unable to promote the issue due to the Lobbying Act 2014.
“This gagging law prevents third sector organisations, such as charities from campaigning against political parties within one year of a general election.”
Mr Bassett said: “Even with the full petition the issue may still not get debated and, even if it does, we know that doesn’t necessarily mean that regorafenib will be reinstated. But we would like to at least request a review of the decision because the patients that need it have had no say at all.”
Mr Bassett and Miss Janes have also taken part in challenges to support PAWS-GIST, a charity aiming to develop a clinic to treat Wildtype GIST patients. Mr Bassett has taken part in the London To Brighton cycle race and Miss Janes last year ran the London Marathon.
To sign the petition, visit: www.epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/73911 or to find out more about PAWS-GIST, visit: www.pawsgistclinic.org.uk. When signing the petition, please check your email account to confirm your signature.