As Breast Cancer Now celebrates its first birthday, Paul Head, Breast Cancer Now's Senior Campaigns Officer, looks back at an eventful first year of campaigning.
It’s been an eventful first year for Breast Cancer Now in terms of our campaigning work. While there was the odd disappointment, our campaigning has been overwhelming successful and we’ve had some really big wins which have demonstrated just what our supporters can achieve when they take action.
Unlocking off-patent drugs
Our first ever campaign as Breast Cancer Now focussed on the issue of off-patent drugs. These are low-cost, effective drugs that aren’t always getting to the people that could benefit from them. We worked with MP and Breast Cancer Ambassador Nick Thomas-Symonds, who introduced a Bill in Parliament to try to tackle the problem.
Our off-patent drugs campaign helped Nick’s Bill gain widespread backing from MPs across the political spectrum. Unfortunately, despite this support, the Government chose not to back the Bill and it did not become law. However, thanks to Breast Cancer Now’s supporters, the issue of off-patent drugs was put firmly at the top of the political agenda and the responsible Minister committed to exploring how to make progress in order to improve access to repurposed off-patent drugs.
Keeping Kadcyla on the Cancer Drugs Fund
In September, our attention turned to Kadcyla, the one-of-a-kind drug proven to extend life, which was at threat from being removed from the Cancer Drugs Fund due to its cost to the NHS. This would have meant that no new patients could access the drug through the Fund.
In response we launched a petition calling on the drugs manufacturer, Roche, to reduce the price of the drug so it could remain on the Fund. A staggering 42,000 people signed the petition in just a few weeks. We handed in the petition to the UK General Manager at Roche, Richard Erwin, and supporters explained to him just how devastating the drugs removal from the Fund would be for them.
In November, the voices of the 42,000 signatories were heard and it was announced that Roche and NHS England had come to an agreement on pricing that would see Kadcyla remain on the Fund.
A Scottish Challenge and Ambassador AMs: Campaigning in the devolved nations
Our first year has also seen us actively campaigning in the devolved nations.
In April we challenged Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) to join with us to stop breast cancer deaths by 2050. Following thousands of emails sent by supporters to their MSPs, we secured cross party backing for the “2050 Challenge” and in March 2016, the Scottish Government committed to “stop anyone dying from breast cancer by 2050” in their new cancer strategy.
We then turned our attention to Wales. Ahead of the Assembly election in May, we asked supporters to get in touch with their local candidates and ask them to become Breast Cancer Ambassadors if they were elected. By becoming Ambassadors, they werecommitting to do their bit to help us achieve our ambition that by 2050, everyone who develops breast cancer will live. Following the election, 18 Assembly Members who had agreed to become Ambassadors were elected.
Breast Cancer Ambassadors in the House of Commons
Shortly before we became Breast Cancer Now, our legacy charities Breast Cancer Campaign and Breakthrough Breast Cancer worked together ahead of the General Election in 2015 to call on potential Members of Parliament to commit to become Breast Cancer Ambassadors if they were elected. We had a huge response, securing nearly 150 Ambassador MPs.
In the last year we’ve continued to ask supporters to get in touch with their MPs and get them on board with the campaign - the result being we now have 200 MPs signed up as Ambassadors! You can find out if your MP is a Breast Cancer Ambassador and if not, ask them to become one, here.
Our first year in numbers
42,015 signatures on our Kadcyla petition
15,954 emails sent to MPs, MSPs and Assembly candidates
567 letters sent to local newspapers
200 Breast Cancer Ambassadors in the House of Commons
18 Breast Cancer Ambassadors elected to the Welsh Assembly
Whether you emailed your local MP, MSP or Assembly candidates, signed our Kadcyla petition, wrote to you local newspaper, encouraged a friend to take part in a campaign or shared one on social media, thank you! Our first year of campaigning wouldn’t have been such a success without you.
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