For immediate release
100,000 VOICES FORCE DEBATE ON CANCER DRUG CUTS
Sussex’s Jemma Peacock & her ambitious online campaign successfully collects 100,000 signatures to force Parliamentary debate on drug funding.
Jemma Peacock is just 31. She lives in Storrington in West Sussex and has two lovely daughters. She was expecting her second child when she was diagnosed with Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumour (GIST), a rare cancer found in the digestive system. She needed ten blood transfusions and nearly died.
There is currently no cure for inoperable GIST, but targeted drugs enable a patient to live without the disease progressing for considerably longer, providing both additional quality time with their families and a much needed window of opportunity enabling research into a cure to continue.
One of these vital, “last resort” life-enhancing drugs is Regorafenib. However, Jemma recently learnt that this will no longer be available to her following its removal from the Cancer Drugs Fund and that patients have no right of appeal. Philip Hunt, Labour’s Deputy Leader in the Lords, called this decision “extraordinary and perverse”.
To Jemma this was devastating news, but a campaign to collect 100,000 signatures on an online petition achieved its goal today after thousands joined the crusade on social media and helped spread the word. Just two weeks ago less than 15,000 had signed but due to a combination of hard work, perseverance and national media attention up to 1000 signatures per hour have been added to the petition – that’s an incredible one every four seconds!
“The whole campaign has been totally overwhelming” said Jemma “not many people felt we could do it and there were times when it seemed just too big a mountain to climb. GIST cancer is so rare that hardly anyone had ever heard of it so it was hard to get the ball rolling. There was a turning point a couple of weeks ago when we seemed to be in every newspaper and celebrities started tweeting using the #100000voices hashtag. I was asked to appear on national radio and several other campaigners were on TV. In the last few days things have just exploded and we still have to pinch ourselves to believe what we’ve managed to achieve. There are so many generous, kind-hearted people that have helped online and behind the scenes. I simply can’t thank them enough. #100000voices has been about a community of ordinary people coming together to support those who needed a voice and it’s been wonderful and emotional to be part of something so special.”
Campaigners are now expecting this to be debated in Parliament and Jemma’s focus has already shifted to the next challenge:
“Now we have to ensure that we get this issue debated and that when it is debated, the right decision is made. We’ll do that by contacting MPs and making sure they are aware of all the facts. We’ve already had a lot of help and support on social media from the likes of Dennis Skinner MP, and Labour peer Lord Philip Hunt has been fully behind the campaign from day one. Only this morning Sir Nicholas Soames MP announced that he’d signed the petition and had written to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to ask him to reverse the decision and reinstate Regorafenib to the Cancer Drugs Fund list. To have such cross-party support at this stage is encouraging and we will now be putting as much energy into lobbying MPs as we’ve invested in collecting these 100,000 signatures. We will make sure every MP in the country is aware of how important this debate is. They will have all the facts including expert medical opinion showing that Regorafenib allows GIST patients to live without their cancer progressing for considerably longer.”
“There is clinical evidence to show that Regorafenib is highly effective in halting the progression of GIST cancers. There are so few of us GIST patients requiring Regorafenib the total cost to treat us all is actually relatively small. In fact, I find it impossible to imagine any MP voting against reinstating it to the Cancer Drugs Fund list because the benefits far outweigh the costs. Despite being extremely confident that Parliament will do the right thing we won’t be taking anything for granted. We will collectively be doing everything we can to ensure a high turnout for the debate. After all, this is about giving people quality time with their loved ones and I don’t think anyone should be putting a price on that.”