A Morecambe chef is furious that his treatment for bladder cancer will be halved by a worldwide shortage of a life-saving drug.
Chris Dickson has been told he won’t get a full six-week course of a vaccine which he hopes will finally destroy the disease after more than a year of chemotherapy and surgery.
Only one UK company is licensed to manufacture BCG, a live but weakened strain of bovine TB also used to fight tuberculosis. Hertfordshire-based MSD said there will be a supply shortage until December due to increased worldwide demand and a manufacturing issue.
Dad-of-four Chris, 38, said: “If it’s not enough having to live with cancer, to be told they don’t have enough treatment to help cure me is more stress that as a family we don’t need.”
Chris, head chef at the University of Cumbria in Lancaster, has endured a torrid 15 months since being diagnosed with grade 1 bladder cancer in August 2013.
He had two tumours removed in September 2013 and then one dose of chemotherapy after the operation.
A cystoscopy in January 2014 showed multiple recurrences of tumours so Chris underwent six further weeks of chemo – only for 16 small tumours to be found.
Consultants then recommended a course of BCG, which Chris received in July, but five small tumours were found in October.
They have since been removed and then Chris was told he would need more BCG to stop them recurring. Then he received the bombshell news of the shortage.
Chris, who lives on South Road, said: “I was told that they could only get enough to treat 10 people to cover Barrow, Kendal, Morecambe and Lancaster.
“Clearly none of the treatment has worked to date on a full course, so why try half the drug? They told me that as my grade of cancer was lower, that I may get away with having a lower dose. But we were told early on in the treatment that there should be no break in it for it to work.
“We are one of the richest countries in the world. Why are we in this position? Why is there only one company producing this vital drug? Why is it a lottery of who gets treated and who doesn’t? It’s barmy, there are 10,000 people a year diagnosed with this. Unbelievable in this day and age.It should be available to everyone.”
Chris has written to David Morris MP, who said he would investigate.He thanked the Royal Lancaster Infirmary nurses who have treated him during his ordeal, saying: “They have been truly wonderful to me. They don’t get the credit they truly deserve.”
David Fyfe, lead clinician for cancer services at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are aware that for the past two years there has been a global shortage of the cancer treatment BCG (Bacillus Calmette-Guerin) used to treat bladder cancers, and this has affected all hospitals treating these types of cancer.Alternative treatments have been made available and we have been discussing individual care plans with patients during this time.
“We would welcome the opportunity to meet with Mr Dickson to discuss his individual treatment plan.”