Mon | Nov 12, 2018

Longmore: UHWI patients with aggressive breast cancer being denied important drug through NHF

Published:Saturday | February 10, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Dr Saphire Longmore

Breast cancer patients at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) who are Her2 positive are being denied access to a highly effective drug, Herceptin, through the National Heath Fund (NHF), according to Dr Saphire Longmore. The senator closed the State of the Nation debate yesterday by calling for improved access as she, too, continues her fight against the disease.

Her2 is a protein found outside cancer cells that promotes fast and aggressive growth.

According to Longmore, mechanisms are in place at the UHWI and the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) to facilitate dispensation through the NHF.

"The programme for the NHF funding for this drug was developed to see to the treatment of 60 patients, at least, per year on this drug," said Longmore.

When contacted to explain the issue, Dr Carl Bruce, senior director of clinical services at the UHWI, directed The Gleaner to Dr Simone Spence, director of health services, planning, and integration in the Ministry of Health. However, Spence is on leave and sent our news team to Maureen Golding, regional director at the South East Regional Health Authority. Calls to Golding's phone went unanswered.

Longmore also lashed out at the practice of UHWI patients being sent to KPH for treatment, arguing that it is having a negative impact on their well-being.

She explained: "KPH has seven doctors down there; UHWI has 14. Each clinic is held at least once a week. The wait time to be seen at the clinic at KPH is at least three months, while at UHWI, it is one month."

brian.walker@gleanerjm.com