Panto cast's helping hand

PANTOMIME characters are rallying around their director to help him pay for cancer treatment denied him by the NHS. An extra performance of Aladdin is being presented in Woolsery to raise money towards the �3,000 a month it will cost Stuart Rickard - the

PANTOMIME characters are rallying around their director to help him pay for cancer treatment denied him by the NHS.An extra performance of Aladdin is being presented in Woolsery to raise money towards the �3,000 a month it will cost Stuart Rickard - the man who wrote the script - to buy the drug himself.He is suffering from a recurrence of renal cancer and his consultant recommended a course of treatment on a drug called Sunitinib.Devon Primary Care Trust turned down the request for funding under the NHS, however, saying Sunitinib was not recommended as a clinical and cost effective intervention for patients with Mr Rickard's particular condition.When the cast of Aladdin heard about this set-back, they unanimously agreed to put on an additional performance.It will take place in Woolsery Sports and Community Hall on February 17."I feel very humble and emotional about it," said Mr Rickard, aged 62, who has lived in the village for 23 years."But that is the sort of community Woolsery is. We all look out for each other here and no doubt, if it had been someone else who needed help, would have done my bit, too."Mr Rickard is hoping he won't have to fund the treatment for long. The drug is already available for free in Wales and he is hoping NICE - the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence - will approve the drug for use in England within the next few months.In the meantime, he has secured part-funding from a local religious charity and he and his wife, Margaret, will use savings to pay the balance."When I first had kidney cancer in 2005, I used a drug called Interferon, which worked, but now it is not working as well, if at all," Mr Rickard said. "Sunitinib is the next weapon in the armoury, but it has not yet been released for general use in England."A NICE spokesman said ongoing appraisal was taking place regarding four drugs for renal cell carcinoma - bevacizumab, sorafenib, sunitinib and temsirolimus.He went on: "Our independent advisory Committee met on Wednesday, January 14 to discuss comments received as a result of the additional consultation on new evidence and the committee's own analysis of this data. "Until the next draft of this guidance is published - which we expect to be within the next four weeks - we are unable to comment on the committee's discussions and nor are we able to speculate as to what the outcome of those discussions is likely to be. "Until NICE issues final guidance on the use of bevacizumab, sorafenib, sunitinib or temsirolimus as treatment options for advanced and/or metastatic renal cell carcinoma, individual cases should be assessed at a local level within the NHS. Once NICE issues its guidance on a technology it replaces local recommendations."'Regarding the decision by the Welsh assembly to fund the four drugs, the spokesman said: "Funding decisions in Wales are a matter for the Welsh Assembly Government and such decisions do not influence the outcome of NICE appraisals." The pantomime runs from February 18-21, with the special performance on February 17. For tickets, call Hazel Chapman on (01237) 431982.


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