Grandmother refused sight-saving drug

PUBLISHED: 16:21 06 October 2008 | UPDATED: 13:37 06 May 2010

Maureen Russell's family are paying for her to be treated privately

Maureen Russell's family are paying for her to be treated privately

GREAT-grandmother Maureen Russell, who has been deaf since childhood, has been refused funding for treatment to save her eyesight. But her family are so determined the active pensioner will not suffer the loss of another vital faculty that they are paying

GREAT-grandmother Maureen Russell, who has been deaf since childhood, has been refused funding for treatment to save her eyesight.

But her family are so determined the active pensioner will not suffer the loss of another vital faculty that they are paying for her to be treated privately.

Mrs Russell, aged 88, of Park Street, has macular degeneration in both eyes but it is the wet form of the condition in her right eye which is treatable. Her other eye - in which she has the dry version of the disease - will also get worse with age but degenerate much more slowly.

NICE (the National Institute for Clinical Excellence) recently ruled that a drug, Lucentis, used in its treatment should be made available on the NHS. Unfortunately its guidelines decree she is not eligible for funding as she already has a small amount of scarring on her right eye.

Her son Simon Russell, aged 43, of Nelson Avenue, St Albans, said: "Her consultant and everyone treating her could not believe she had been refused funding and advised us to appeal the decision which we have.

"But this is an aggressive condition which could render her blind in a month. We could not afford to wait so we are paying for the treatment ourselves but I am shocked that my parents paid into a system all their lives only for my mother to be denied funding."

He added that it was a false economy as his mother was independent and active but would have to have full-time care if she lost her sight.

A spokesperson for West Herts Primary Care Trust (PCT) said: "The PCT has made its decision based on guidance from NICE. Mrs Russell has the right to appeal this decision through her GP or consultant and can apply to have her case heard by the exceptional treatment panel."

L Grandfather Edward Meaton, aged 74, of Howland Garth, St Albans, was originally refused funding by the PCT because the degree of sight loss in his right eye was so profound that treatment was unlikely to make any difference.

He had to raid his savings to pay privately for drugs to prevent his sight deteriorating. But when the new NICE ruling was made, St Albans MP Anne Main wrote to the PCT and they agreed to foot the bill.

Around 26,000 people in the UK are affected by wet AMD and it can lead to blindness within three months.

Each injection of Lucentis costs around £1,500 but both Mr Meaton and now Mrs Russell have been paying around £700 per treatment with Avastin which is a similar drug.

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