Vicky Phelan providing funds to pay for €2,000 test for women seeking access to ‘wonderdrug’

Patient rights advocate Vicky Phelan who is campaigning for so-called ‘wonderdrug’, Pembrolizumab, to be made freely available to everyone with cervical cancer, has revealed she is using funds raised for her own cancer treatment to help others gain to access to the same medication that is understood to have significantly shrunk tumors in her body, giving her a new lease of life.

After being diagnosed with terminal cancer last January, Ms Phelan was given little or no options for treatment, however through her own research, she discovered Pembrolizumab.

Ms Phelan said she has been providing the €2,000 cost of the test fee for a number of women, without which they might not be considered for the drug.

The 43-year-old mother of two explained what she has been doing to help other women in the 11th edition of the Limerick Voice newspaper, produced by University of Limerick journalism students, which was officially launched today as a supplement in the Limerick Leader.

As widely reported last June, Ms Phelan also confirms she will also provide funding for a research position to be rotated between the eight cancer centres in the country, providing information to patients about clinical trials and alternative treatments.

Last January Ms Phelan was told that she had between six and 12 months to live.

She is receiving a course of Pembrolizumab every three weeks in St Vincent’s Hospital costing €8,500 per each course of the drug.

The Cervical Check redress scheme, set up after Ms Phelan exposed the cancer test results scandal, that led to her own missed diagnosis which was then not disclosed to her for three years, covers the cost of treatment for the 221 women involved.

Ms Phelan, however, has campaigned for the scheme to be made available beyond this group.

Nearly €200,000 was donated by over 2,000 people to fund Ms Phelan‘s treatment, however after she received a substantial High Court settlement after her own case, she offered to return the funding received from donors via her GoFundMe page, but they insisted she keep the funds.

The money will be used to fund the cancer researcher role at €60,000 per annum.

“It didn’t sit right with me, so I thought I’m going to use that money for good. I’ll be happy if i can use it for good,” Ms Phelan told the Voice.

She said she hopes the Health Service Executive (HSE) will ultimately take on the cost of the researcher role as well as expand it with additional posts.

Frances Watkins, Editor of Limerick Voice 2018 at the launch of the 11th edition of the Limerick Voice newspaper. Picture: Oisin McHugh/True Media

It has being mooted in the past 24 hours that Pembrolizumab could be soon covered by the HSE for cervical cancer.

Meanwhile, Hachette Books Ireland announced they are to publish a memoir on Phelan’s life story in Autumn 2019.

The student newspaper also reports that over 200 men have sought hep from Rape Crisis Midwest in the past five years.

Miriam Duffy, Executive Director, said that in total 1,000 men and women have contacted the group during the same period.

The vast majority of males have sought help in relation to childhood abuse.

However, Ms Duffy said she believes an increase in male callers to the service is due partly to improved training of gardai handling reports of sexual crimes.