Thu | Apr 26, 2018

Tufton: Breast cancer patients, UHWI concerns being addressed

Published:Thursday | February 15, 2018 | 12:00 AMBrian Walker/Staff Reporter
Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton
Dr Saphire Longmore
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Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton says that discussions are under way for the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) to provide breast cancer patients who are Her2 positive with direct access to a highly effective drug, Herceptin.

Tufton did not give a timeline for implementation, but he confirmed that UHWI patients are sent to the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) for treatment through a National Health Fund programme. The drug is also available at the Cornwall and Mandeville regional hospitals.

Senator Saphire Longmore, who is battling breast cancer, brought the issue into focus as she closed the State of the Nation debate last Friday. Since October 2015, the KPH has received 14 referrals from the UHWI. Five patients have completed treatment and nine are in progress.

Her2 is a protein found outside cancer cells that promotes aggressive growth, and Longmore contended that delays in treatment could negatively affect health outcomes.

Longmore asserted: "KPH has seven doctors down there, UWI has 14. Each clinic is held at least once a week. The wait time for being seen at the clinic at KPH is at least three months, while at UWI, it is one month."

In a press release, the National Health Fund (NHF) said that procurement of Herceptin accounted for approximately 26 per cent of its overall budget for cancer medicine in 2017.

"The total amount of Herceptin Injection 600mg dispensed during the period was 643 vials, with a value of $154 million, for 64 cancer patients being treated at the Cornwall Regional and Kingston Public hospitals," the NHF said.

brian.walker@gleanerjm.com