Updated: 22/09/17 : 07:04:10
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Plea for life-saving drug for Sligo cancer patient

A Sligo cancer patient’s wife has begged Minister Simon Harris to ­provide the life-saving pills he promised two months ago.

In July, the Health ­Minister said the HSE and his Department had agreed a deal for nine medicines — and they would be available in September.

The Irish Sun reports that Harris admitted in the Dáil on Wednesday night that they are not ready but would be in the “coming weeks”.

This is not good enough for retired Sligo teacher Peter Milne, who has been waiting to get immunotherapy drug Nivolumab.

His wife Bernie accused the HSE and Government of giving families false hope as time ticks on.

And she said Peter does not have the “weeks” Harris said it will take.

Bernie explained: “We were elated with the news in July that this drug would be available.

“It really is Peter’s only hope. Here we are two months later and we’re still waiting.

“It’s all well and good for Minister Harris to say the HSE will provide the drug in ‘the coming weeks’.

“But this is cancer we’re talking about. Patients don’t have weeks. Days, hours, minutes are what count.

“We know the decision ultimately lies with the HSE and as a family we urge them from the bottom of our hearts to give Peter, and other patients, this chance.”


Peter’s consultant at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin, Professor Ray McDermott, said it’s the only way to extend his life — but, with the cancer spreading, he needs it immediately.

Peter, 64, was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2008 and had one of his kidneys removed.

But in 2014, he found out he had secondary kidney cancer, which had spread to his lymph nodes and lungs.

His case was raised in the Dáil by local Fine Gael TD Tony McLoughlin, who praised the Big C patient for teaching refugees English and raising €20,000 for Sligo Cancer Support Centre while suffering the disease himself.

Nivolumab costs around €100,000 a year, per patient.

The drug can be used to treat a large range of ­cancers, but as Peter’s health insurance doesn’t cover it, he is reliant on the HSE to provide the funds.

Bernie explained: “It’s no more expensive than some of the other drugs he’s been on. Peter isn’t on any medication at the minute. ‘Weeks’ is too vague and too long.”

Deputy McLoughlin added: “My hope now is that the patients such as Peter can receive it as quickly as possible and I would call on the HSE to do all in its power to ensure that this process is ramped up. The money is there, so we simply need to get it done.”

The Sligo-based TD told Sligo Today on Wednesday this week, “I asked the Minister to come to the Dáil tonight as Peter’s family needed answers from him on when this drug would be made available to the public.  Time is very much of the essence here for Peter and there were fears being expressed that this decision could have gone on for months and months on end." See; Sligo Today 21/9/2017