Why Must I Move House to Get the Treatment I Need? Health Board Can't Afford New Drug for MS Victim

Daily Mail (London), November 20, 2000 | Go to article overview

Why Must I Move House to Get the Treatment I Need? Health Board Can't Afford New Drug for MS Victim


Byline: HAMISH MACDONELL

A MULTIPLE sclerosis sufferer is being forced to move home because her local health board does not have enough money to fund her treatment.

Vivienne Howie has lived in Dundee all her life, but is now preparing to move from her rented home to Fife or Aberdeen after staff at Tayside Health Board told her it does not have the resources to pay for the drugs she needs.

The 36-year-old, who was diagnosed six weeks ago, was told she would benefit from the expensive new Beta Interferon drug, which would very probably stabilise her condition.

She was then told Tayside Health Board only had enough money to provide Beta Interferon for eight MS sufferers and that all the money had already been allocated.

Miss Howie then discovered that both Fife and Grampian health boards provide the drug for all those who meet the medical criteria.

She is now preparing to move from her home city for the first time in her life because of Tayside's inability to fund the treatment.

Now critics are demanding urgent action from the health board and the intervention of Health Minister Susan Deacon to end what they claimed was a 'classic case of postcode prescribing'.

Miss Deacon insisted last week that the Executive was doing everything possible to end the unfair practice.

Yesterday, no one was available for comment at Tayside Health Board - which has been struggling to cope with a [pounds sterling]12million budget deficit.

Miss Howie said she was furious about the way she has been treated. She said: 'I am really angry. They don't ever consider not giving insulin to diabetics or chemotherapy to people suffering from cancer.

'This has been a blow when I need support. If there is something out there which can stop the progression of this, anybody would want it.' Miss Howie, who lives with her unemployed partner in Dundee, said she was determined to get Beta Interferon 'by hook or by crook'.

She said: 'I don't have the money to finance the treatment myself, so the answer is to move to somewhere I can get it on the NHS.

'I have practically no feeling in my hands, my legs are weak and I am in constant pain. I am easily exhausted and suffer from double vision.

'I don't want this to progress any further. I want access to anything that halts its progress.' Miss Howie said evidence shows that Beta Interferon administered within weeks of diagnosis halts progression of MS by up to 40 per cent.' She berated Tayside for the financial restraints, pointing out that, without the drug, she would probably have several relapses every year, each one costing the board hundreds of pounds in hospital costs. …

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