Cancer drug approval was too late for campaigning Halesworth grandmother - but family hopes it can help others
- Credit: Nick Butcher
A decision to make a life-extending cancer drug available on the NHS has come too late for one Halesworth family after a campaigning mother and grandmother died earlier this year.
Jane Ringwood (formerly Kircher) died aged 65 on February 23 this year after a two-year battle with lung cancer.
But during her fight the former end-of-life nurse, who was described as a 'heroine', campaigned for the drug nivolumab to be available through NHS England.
Today, England's drugs watchdog approved nivolumab through the fast-track Cancer Drugs Fund - a pot of money set aside for treatments which aren't yet routinely available.
Originally it had been deemed too expensive and more evidence will now be gathered on its cost-effectiveness.
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And while Mrs Ringwood's daughter Denise Kircher welcomed the decision, she admitted it was 'bittersweet'.
Ms Kircher said: 'It's so great to hear it has now been approved. Mum was so passionate about it and not just for her own benefit but for other sufferers who hopefully can now benefit from this 'wonder drug' as it's often been referred as.
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'For us as a family it is another bitter sweet memory and reminder about just what a remarkable person our mum was.'
Last year, Mrs Ringwood told this newspaper: 'Even if the drug comes too late for me hopefully other patients and families won't be placed in this awful situation.'
At the time she was one of an estimated 1,000 people in England the medication could help. It was already available in Scotland.
The late Sunday Times restaurant critic AA Gill also advocated for its use, describing nivolumab as 'more life spent on Earth - but only if you can pay'.
Now, its approval means about 1,300 people will now be eligible for the drug on the NHS.
Mrs Kircher added: 'Of course, she knew she might not have met the criteria had it been approved, but she would be pleased to know it would help other people.'
'I know mum would be so happy and grateful for all the support she was given with the petition in getting nivolumab made available in the UK. She was never one to shy away from a challenge and always determined to achieve her goals no matter what she had going on herself. We as a family miss her so much everyday but she remains forever close in our hearts and memories.'
What is nivolumab?
Nivolumab, also known as its brand name Opdivo, is a type of immunotherapy which stimulates the body's immune system to fight cancer cells.
It costs in the region of £60,000 to £100,000 a year and although it was made available for the treatment of advanced skin cancer in February 2016, it can also be used to treat blood cancer (Hodgkin lymphoma), kidney cancer and the most common type of lung cancer - non small-cell lung cancer.
Prof Carole Longson, from NICE, said: 'We know that nivolumab is clinically effective for some people with lung cancer, but the full extent of its benefit is not clear.
'This new deal means that we can give patients access to what we know is a promising treatment whilst more evidence is gathered on its value.'