My name is Kirsty Howard, and at aged 34 on 30th October 2017 my world was turned upside down when I received a breast cancer diagnosis at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh. What had been such a happy time in my life with a new house, enjoyable job and the thought of starting a family in the future with my husband, had turned into the worst time of my life.
I was diagnosed with triple positive breast cancer, being oestrogen & progesterone positive along with HER2+, meaning that the cancer has cell receptors for hormones and proteins that help the cancer grow. After numerous scans, biopsies and results all over the space of a couple of weeks, I was referred to meet my oncologist for the first time, with the plan to start neoadjuvant (pre surgery) chemotherapy within a few weeks.
The day I met my oncologist mid November 2017, I quickly learnt that there was a targeted therapy drug, specifically for Her2+ breast cancer called pertuzumab, which has been showing great results and is available on the NHS in England, but unfortunately not in Scotland. As I do not have any private medical insurance, the only access to this vitally important drug would come at a price tag of £10,500 for the three required doses alongside chemotherapy!
As if myself and my husband didn’t have enough to deal with already with my shock diagnosis, we now had the added stress and worry of knowing about a very important drug, which my oncologist was strongly behind, that was not routinely available due to the high costs set by the drug company!! This was extremely upsetting and frustrating and felt like an unfair postcode lottery.
We were extremely fortunate that with the help of close family, through personal savings, we were able to pay for me to receive pertuzumab. This decision had to be made and the funds found within a period of around 6 or 7 weeks. Sadly this is not the case for everyone and some people may not be as fortunate to be able to get the money together to pay this kind of ridiculous amount for three doses of a drug.
It makes me so angry that for all the money that goes into research for new life saving drugs, the drug companies then completely over-price the drugs making them unaffordable to the NHS and many individuals. It defeats the point of all the important research in the first place if the drugs will sit on the shelf due to the unaffordable cost. This is why Just Treatment's campaign is so important, so that other women with HER2+ breast cancer do not need to go through the additional stress and upset that I did in accessing pertuzumab.
Sign up here to join the campaign for the Scottish government to demand a fair price for breast cancer drug pertuzumab: justtreatment.org/dunise