TV appeal cancer patient dies

The late Adrian Allen
The late Adrian Allen

A County Derry man at the centre of a cancer drug TV appeal has died.

Claudy cancer patient Adrian Allen lost his battle to pancreatic cancer on Friday night despite getting access to a life-saving cancer drug following appeals on TV. The 56 year-old was sent home with painkillers last December after being told by doctors that he had pancreatic cancer and would need specialist treatment which was unavailable on the health service in Northern Ireland.

Mr Allen was told that his only hope of survival was the drug Sunitinib, which was not accessible in NI as it cost too much for the Department of Health despite being available on the NHS in England, Scotland and Wales.

Following public outcry, Mr Allen eventually received the drug, but as Derry SDLP MLA and Health spokesman Mark H Durkan said last night: “It was too little, too late.”

“In my opinion, which is not a medical one, it would be very interesting to know what the effect would have been had Mr Allen been able to access the drug earlier. Sunitinib is a life enhancing and life prolonging drug so one would imagine he would be alive today had he got it much earlier than he did,” Mr Durkan said.

He added that he hoped the Department of Health had learned from Mr Allen’s case. “Although it will not be much comfort to Mr Allen’s family, I’m hopeful that now the Department of Health ensures that patients with pancreatic cancer can access the drug.

“It is important that patients in Northern Ireland are given access to the same drugs as patients in England, Scotland and Wales.”

Mr Durkan said he wished to extend his “deepest sympathy” to the family of Mr Allen.

The controversy over the inaccessibility of the live-saving drug hit the headlines when Mr Allen appeared on BBC Northern Ireland’s Stephen Nolan Show last month. A spokesperson for the show said the aim of the programme was to “raise awareness of the dilemma some sufferers of pancreatic cancer face in relation to getting this drug on the NHS in Northern Ireland”.

Mr Allen, of Cregglea, Claudy is to be buried following a funeral service at Upper Cumber Presbyterian Church today at 2.30pm.