Woman facing ‘imminent death’ settles case against HSE for access to cancer drug

Patient was challenging alleged failure of the HSE to answer her application for drug pembrolizumab


A woman with cervical cancer who claims she was facing imminent death because she had not been approved for treatment with what she says is a life-saving drug has settled her High Court action.

On Monday, the woman was given leave by the court, on a one-side only represented basis, to challenge the alleged failure of the HSE to answer her application to be approved for the drug pembrolizumab because all other treatments, including chemotherapy, have been unsuccessful.

The woman, who cannot be named, said the way the HSE has dealt with her application is a “refusal by silence”.

Pembrolizumab, trade name Keytruda, is on the HSE’s drug reimbursement list for certain medical conditions but the woman has been told that, in view of her revised diagnosis of Stage 4b cancer, it was not listed for reimbursement for her condition.

As she is among a small cohort of patients suitable for treating her cancer with pembrolizumab, she had been receiving treatment thanks to public donations but they are now almost exhausted. That treatment has been keeping her alive and has had a remarkably beneficial effect on her condition, she says.

The case was adjourned to Wednesday to allow the HSE make an appearance and for her lawyers to apply for an injunction requiring the HSE to continue the pembrolizumab treatment.

On Wedneday, Felix McEnroy SC, for the woman, said the matter had been settled and he handed the terms of the settlement into court.

His client had received medical treatment on Tuesday and it was his application to strike out the proceedings with liberty to re-enter or apply.

Shane Murphy SC, for the HSE, said his client agreed to those terms.

Striking out the proceedings, Mr Justice Seamus Noonan said he was delighted the parties had been able to resolve what was an extremely sad and sensitive case. “It has been met speedily and sensitively by the HSE”, he said.