Posted: Fri 19th Nov 2021

North Wales MS backs campaign for all pancreatic cancer patients to be prescribed essential medication

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Friday, Nov 19th, 2021

A North Wales Senedd Member has pledged support to Pancreatic Cancer UK’s campaign to improve prescription rates for inexpensive tablets without which people with the disease cannot digest food – leaving them at risk of starvation.

Half of all people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are not being prescribed the tablets, known as Pancreatic Enzyme Replacement Therapy (PERT), despite existing NICE guidelines already recommending them for people with the disease.

A virtual Senedd event for World Pancreatic Cancer Day was held recently in support of Pancreatic Cancer UK’s Transform Lives Prescribe campaign.

During the event, Mark Isherwood MS heard the alarming findings from an audit of 1,350 pancreatic cancer patients in the UK led by researchers at the University of Birmingham, with funding from Pancreatic Cancer UK.

The audit found that patients who had been diagnosed too late to have surgery  – the only potential cure for the disease –  are two times less likely to be prescribed PERT tablets.

This means that many people with incurable pancreatic cancer are not being given the medication – which could not only improve their quality of life, but also help them tolerate life-extending treatment.

Currently, only 3 in 5 people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in Wales are being prescribed PERT – despite its potential to help so many more.

Mr Isherwood said: “I was pleased to mark Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month by attending this important event and meeting people who have been personally affected by the deadliest common cancer. ”

“Hearing directly from them really drove home how important it is that everyone who’s diagnosed with this disease has access to Pancreatic Enzyme Replacement Therapy. ”

“I’ve put my name to Pancreatic Cancer UK’s joint letter to the Minister for Health and Social Services in the Welsh Government to call for action on this important issue. We must ensure that everyone with pancreatic cancer is considered for this prescription at the point of diagnosis.”

As pancreatic cancer grows it stops the pancreas producing enzymes needed to digest food and absorb nutrients.

PERT tablets are essential to help people with the disease to eat, stay healthy enough to tolerate treatment and to manage debilitating symptoms from the cancer – including pain, diarrhoea and extreme weight loss.

Health professionals’ lack of awareness of PERT tablets is the most significant reason why they are not prescribed more frequently.

The majority of the 10,500 people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the UK each year are given a terminal diagnosis – as the disease’s vague symptoms, such as back-pain and indigestion, mean it often goes undetected until after it has already spread to other parts of the body.

People with a terminal diagnosis are more likely to be treated by health professionals who do not specialise in pancreatic cancer and thus have lower awareness of PERT tablets and their benefits. Cost should not be a factor: at just £7 per patient per day, PERT tablets are inexpensive.

Danni Manzi, Head of Policy, Intelligence and Campaigns for Pancreatic Cancer UK, said:

“We’re very grateful to all the MSs supporting our campaign.”

“It’s incredibly important that cancer services across Wales begin to prioritise Pancreatic Enzyme Replacement Therapy. ”

“These proven, inexpensive tablets can make a huge difference to the quality of life of people with pancreatic cancer – regardless of whether or not their cancer is curable.”

“Health professionals care for people with pancreatic cancer with great skill and compassion year after year, but most will typically see patients with this devastating disease far less frequently than other types of cancer.”

“People diagnosed with pancreatic cancer cannot wait for the expertise of specialist cancer hospitals to be shared naturally to other parts of the health service.”

“That’s why we’ve developed specialist PERT training to ensure that as many healthcare professionals as possible understand the benefits of PERT and prescription rates rapidly improve.”

“It needs to become second nature to see people with pancreatic cancer and prescribe PERT tablets, in the same way an immediate link is already made between diabetes and insulin. They are just as vital.”

Through its ‘Transform Lives: Prescribe’ campaign Pancreatic Cancer UK is urging the NHS in Wales to implement targets to make sure people with pancreatic cancer are prescribed PERT tablets routinely.

Currently more than half of people with pancreatic cancer die within three months of diagnosis.

They cannot afford to wait for essential medication and the charity is asking the public to support the campaign by signing its petition calling for change: https://transformlives.pancreaticcancer.org.uk/

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