Ovarian cancer drug niraparib approved for use in NI
An ovarian cancer drug which could extend the life of patients has been approved for use in Northern Ireland for the first time.
Women will be able to access niraparib, which is already available through the NHS in England, Scotland and Wales.
The drug will be available for women with recurrent ovarian cancer.
An average of 221 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year in Northern Ireland.
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Niraparib works as a targeted treatment and exploits specific weaknesses in cancer cells, preventing them from repairing themselves.
The drug has the potential to improve the quality of life for women suffering with the condition, and lengthen the time when the disease is stable and not progressing.
Carol Bareham, 45, from Larne, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2016 and is hoping to be able to use niraparib.
"The only choice that women like me have had up to now, especially if the cancer reoccurs outside the pelvic area, has been chemotherapy," she told BBC News NI.
"After each session of chemotherapy, the effects wear off quicker, there is a shorter period of time before the next session.
"It is not going to cure me, it is not going to do anything like that. But if I get to use it, it is going to keep chemotherapy at bay."
'What choice do I have?'
Mrs Bareham said the relief the drug provides could give her valuable time with her husband Neil, daughter Thea, 16, and son Elliot, 14.
"It is very tough on them. Dealing with what is going on and trying to do well in school," she said.
"From day one I said I do not want the fact your mummy has cancer to impact on anything they are doing, or in school.
"I am one of these eejits, there are grey clouds coming over but I will be there with silver paintbrush.
"My bottom line, is what choice do I have? I can either curl up into a ball or I can just suck it up while there is still life in me and fight this disease."
Charity Target Ovarian Cancer said the drug's availability was a "game changer".
"Women in Northern Ireland finally have parity with the rest of the UK.
"With niraparib, we're taking the fight to ovarian cancer," said Rebecca Rennison, the charity's director of public affairs and services.
In a statement, the Department of Health said: "The department has now endorsed the National Institute for Health and Care Execellence (NICE) recommendation on niraparib to enable its commissioning locally, on the same basis as in England."
NICE is a national authority which provides guidance to the NHS and other health and social care bodies.