A cancer sufferer who became a victim of the Hounslow 'postcode lottery' of healthcare has spoken of her relief after finally receiving the life-extending drug erlotinib she was originally denied.
Margaret Whitby, of Curtis Road, Whitton, was twice refused funding for the so-called super-drug erlotinib by bosses at NHS Hounslow last year having been diagnosed with lung cancer.
But the 74-year-old grandmother finally began taking the drug, commonly known as Tarceva, just over a fortnight ago after advisory body NICE ruled it should be available to people in her position.
She told the Chronicle how the treatment had already transformed her life and described it as the best Christmas present she could have been given.
"My health had been going downhill very rapidly in the last couple of months to the point where I was always short of breath and could hardly move without coughing," she said. "But since I started the treatment my breathing's become better, I've got no cough at all and I've even been able to go shopping. It's really made my Christmas."
The Chronicle, along with Twickenham MP Vince Cable, has been campaigning for wider access to cancer drugs since it emerged NHS Hounslow (formerly Hounslow PCT) rejected all seven applications it received for a range of high-profile treatments during the last financial year.
The health trust rejected an appeal for the drugs by Mrs Whitby in October, despite many bodies across the country providing funding for people in similar positions.
However, a ruling by NICE (the National Institute for Clinical Excellence) at the end of November means all trusts must fund the drug for patients like her.
"I can never forgive them (NHS Hounslow) for turning down my appeal because they could have saved me a lot of pain," said Mrs Whitby. "However, I can't blame them completely because the drug wasn't recommended by NICE at the time."
NICE last week announced new guidelines to speed up decisions on which drugs should be available on the NHS, a process which can take up to two years.