Treatment at a price

BRAVE: Ann Claxton is battling an aggressive tumour but says there are many people in the world worse off than her.
BRAVE: Ann Claxton is battling an aggressive tumour but says there are many people in the world worse off than her.

Cancer patient Ann Claxton has so far parted with over $50,000 in a bid to beat the aggressive brain tumour threatening her life.

But the cost is taking its toll and she's turning to the public for help.

The Aucklander is also hoping that the expensive Avastin chemotherapy she is paying for will eventually be  government funded.

The 62-year-old was diagnosed just over a year ago after an acute onset of symptoms.

"I was getting ready for the gym but couldn't dress myself. I went down to tell my husband but by then I couldn't even speak," she says.

John Claxton raced his wife to North Shore Hospital where she was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme - the nastiest tumour of its kind, he says.

"They don't go away in a hurry. Some people die within a number of days, some people go on for years. We are hoping Ann will be in the latter group.

The Claxtons say doctors suggested Avastin chemotherapy - a treatment with an uncertain outcome and a price tag of more than $50,000.

John says he didn't think twice and knew he had to find a way to pay for the non-government funded drug.

But he thinks oncologists would use the product more if it was free and believes lives would be saved.

Roche Products is the distributor of Avastin in New Zealand.

Director of medical affairs Jan Campbell says it is used to treat a number of types of cancers.

"Clinical trials have shown that when given for recurrent glioblastoma Avastin improved survival times."

Campbell says Avastin is not funded by Pharmac meaning patients need to pay for the medicine themselves or fundraise.

"We have submitted five full submissions and at least seven commercial proposals [to Pharmac]," she says. "All submissions have been unsuccessful and whilst we never wish to let down patients, there is a point where you have to balance the likelihood of a successful outcome."

Pharmac operations director Sarah Fitt says it is always open to considering funding applications and would welcome a submission for Avastin as a treatment for glioblastoma.

"Pharmac has previously assessed Avastin but not for its use in treating glioblastomas.

Should Pharmac receive an application, we would ask our clinical advisory committee PTAC to review the clinical data, and an economic analysis would be conducted."

Meanwhile the Claxtons are paying for the treatment out of their own pockets and have set up a fundraising page at

Ann has had three brain surgeries, two lots of radiation and two doses of chemotherapy since her diagnosis and remains optimistic about her future.

She says there are a lot of people in the world worse off than her.

''I spend my days watching the birds and don't go into what could and may be. There's no point. When I was diagnosed I instantly thought I have to beat this.''

North Shore Times