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Home > News > Personal Injury News


12 November 2005

Asbestos victim's fight for drug

A dying shipyard worker has been forced to launch legal proceedings against his former bosses so he can pay for a life-extending cancer drug.

Grandfather Stan Easton, 69, of Deneham Street, North Shields, has the asbestos-related disease mesothelioma.

The lung condition is slowly killing him, and, although three doctors at North Tyneside District Hospital have advised he should receive the chemotherapy drug Alimta, he cannot get it on the NHS.

Mr Easton worked as a pipe-fitter in a number of yards on the Tyne, and for about 30 companies who dealt with asbestos, during his working life. He was exposed to asbestos fibres daily - and recalls sitting on asbestos bales during lunch breaks.

Mr Easton has a wife of 45 years, Elsie, 71, twin daughters, 42, and four grandchildren. His mesothelioma was diagnosed in August. Most sufferers have a life expectancy below 12 months, but Alimta is said to extend life by at least three months.

It is available on the NHS in Scotland and in Liverpool, but the Northern Cancer Network claims it is not cost-effective to be offered in North East hospitals.

Mr Easton's consultant oncologist, Dr Jill Gardiner, has written to him explaining he would benefit from the drug. But he will have to get it privately at a cost of about £24,000 per treatment.

Mr Easton now hopes his solicitors, Thompsons, can claim the cash and other compensation owed to him from four of his employers, including Swan Hunter, Mitchisons, the Walker Naval Yard and brewers Scottish & Newcastle.

The keen gardener and painter said: "It's like someone being on Death Row. If you're on Death Row because you murdered someone you put up with it. But I'm innocent. If I'd ever smoked and got lung cancer, fair enough. If I had drank and got liver problems, fair enough. But this has been caused through just making a living.

"I sit here and it's on my mind all the time." When I go to bed that's the worst, and when I wake up it's the first thing on my mind.

"I want Alimta for quality of life. It might help me live longer and it might control the pain."

Ian McFall head of the asbestos team at Thompsons in Newcastle, said: "We'll move heaven and earth to get an interim payment for Mr Easton to allow him the opportunity to pay for the treatment.

"We have already secured, in several other cases, payment for the cost of Alimta from negligent employers and insurers."

A spokeswoman for Northern Cancer Network said it was waiting to find out if the National Institute for Clinical Excellence would recommend Alimta when it issues its guidance in October next year.

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