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Glyn Davies: Ending the postcode lottery for cancer drugs

Speech to the National Assembly for Wales.

"Today's debate concerns access to new drugs by people suffering from serious illness. Members who served during the first Assembly may remember that I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2002, and I underwent major surgery—abdominal perineal excision of the rectum—which saved my life.

This is the first occasion on which I have spoken about it in the Chamber, because I prefer not to speak about it. However, I did not want the debate to pass without commenting on how we respond to colorectal cancer, including the highly sensitive issue of access to new drugs.

I will make a brief reference to screening for bowel cancer, by way of background. Screening is so important because early diagnosis delivers a very good chance of a full recovery. Every year, 30,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with colon cancer, and some 16,000 people per year die from it.

It is the second most common cause of death from cancer after lung cancer. It seems incredible that there is not more urgency in the drive for an effective screening programme. I ask the Minister to take screening for bowel cancer very seriously, because it would save thousands of lives.

I will also make a brief reference to the review of the arrangements for the provision of stoma appliances that is currently underway. For those of us who have had a lower bowel resection, and for many others who have had gut operations, a colostomy bag is permanent. This, in itself, is a traumatic experience. It was a blessing to me and for every other ostomate that the supply of stoma appliances is handled with wonderful efficiency.

The system may now be completely changed, and I ask the Minister to be careful about this. There is a real danger that the wonderful system which is now in place, which is trusted and applauded, is threatened by an obsession with change.

My third point is about new drugs. For many years, there has been a standard drug to defeat colon cancer, and suddenly there are several new drugs of huge promise that save lives. Last summer, I was involved in a huge amount of publicity about the availability of Xeloda in Scotland, but not in England and Wales, for the same reason that Herceptin and interferon are not comprehensively available today.

My message to the Minister is simple and clear: give real priority to the testing and approval of these drugs. I know that this is a difficult and sensitive issue, and I realise that the Minister cannot say 'yes' to everything, but it is a terrible thing to see someone that you love or know well dying, but it is much worse when you know that there are drugs available which will enable them to recover."

"Mae'r ddadl heddiw'n ymwneud â mynediad pobl sy'n dioddef salwch difrifol at gyffuriau newydd. Bydd Aelodau a fu'n gwasanaethu yn ystod y Cynulliad cyntaf yn cofio imi fod yn dioddef o ganser y colon a'r rhefr yn 2002, a chefais lawdriniaeth fawr—trychiad gwerddyrol abdomenol o'r rhefr—a achubodd fy mywyd. Dyma'r tro cyntaf imi sôn amdano yn y Siambr, oherwydd mae'n well gennyf beidio â sôn amdano. Fodd bynnag, nid oeddwn am i'r ddadl fynd heibio heb gynnig sylw ar y modd yr ydym yn ymateb i ganser y colon a'r rhefr, gan gynnwys y mater sensitif dros ben o fynediad at gyffuriau newydd.

Yr wyf am gyfeirio'n sydyn at sgrinio ar gyfer canser y coluddyn, fel cefndir i fy sylwadau. Mae sgrinio mor bwysig gan fod diagnosis cynnar yn golygu siawns dda o wella'n llwyr.

Pob blwyddyn, mae 30,000 o bobl yn y DU yn canfod bod canser y coluddyn arnynt, ac mae oddeutu 16,000 o bobl y flwyddyn yn marw o ganlyniad iddo. Ar wahân i ganser yr ysgyfaint dyma'r canser sy'n achosi'r nifer fwyaf o farwolaethau. Mae'n rhyfeddol nad oes mwy o frys yn yr ymdrech i gael rhaglen sgrinio fwy effeithiol. Gofynnaf i'r Gweinidog gymryd sgrinio ar gyfer canser y coluddyn yn ddifrifol iawn, gan y byddai'n arbed miloedd o fywydau.

Yr wyf am gyfeirio'n sydyn hefyd at yr adolygiad o'r trefniadau ar gyfer darparu offer stoma sy'n cael ei gynnal ar hyn o bryd. I'r rhai ohonom sydd wedi cael echdoriad o'r coluddyn isaf, ac i lawer o rai eraill sydd wedi cael llawdriniaeth ar y perfeddion, mae bag colostomi yn rhywbeth parhaol.

Mae hyn, ynddo'i hun, yn brofiad trawmatig. Yr oedd yn fendith imi a phob ostomat arall bod y cyflenwad o offer stoma yn hynod effeithlon. Mae'n bosibl y caiff y system ei newid yn llwyr yn awr, a gofynnaf i'r Gweinidog fod yn ofalus iawn wrth feddwl am hyn. Mae perygl gwirioneddol y bydd y system ragorol sydd gennym ar hyn o bryd, sy'n un y gellir ymddiried ynddi ac sy'n cael ei chanmol, yn cael ei bygwth gan obsesiwn gyda newid.

Mae fy nhrydydd pwynt yn ymwneud â chyffuriau newydd. Ers blynyddoedd lawer, cafwyd cyffur safonol i drechu canser y colon, ac yn sydyn mae sawl cyffur newydd hynod addawol wedi ymddangos a all achub bywydau. Yn ystod yr haf diwethaf, yr oeddwn yn gysylltiedig â llawer o gyhoeddusrwydd yn ymwneud ag argaeledd Xeloda yn yr Alban, ond nid yn Lloegr na Chymru, ac am yr un rheswm nid yw Herceptin ac interferon ar gael i bawb heddiw.

Mae fy neges i'r Gweinidog yn un syml ac eglur: rhowch wir flaenoriaeth i brofi a chymeradwyo'r cyffuriau hyn. Gwn fod hwn yn fater anodd a sensitif, ac yr wyf yn sylweddoli na all y Gweinidog ddweud 'o'r gorau' i bopeth, ond mae'n beth ofnadwy gweld rhywun yr ydych chi'n ei garu neu'n ei adnabod yn dda'n marw, ond mae'n llawer gwaeth os ydych chi'n gwybod bod cyffuriau ar gael a fyddai'n eu galluogi i wella."

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