Fight to see drug approved

LOUISE ‘‘Lou’’ Williams is walking, talking and breathing.

She is well enough to walk a flight of stairs, visit her Greens Beach holiday home and prepare dinner each night.

At Easter, Mrs Williams had been preparing for death, suffering badly from the aggressive return of mesothelioma, or asbestos cancer, a disease she was first diagnosed with in 2003.

The outlook was bad. Already her body had struggled through chemotherapy on and off for more than a decade as mesothelioma reared its head time and time again.

But Mrs Williams’ palliative care nurse, husband and oncologist variously describe her recovery this year as miraculous.

Mrs Williams credits immunotherapy drug Keytruda for her recovery and is now on a mission to have it listed under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

A Therapeutic Goods Administration spokesman said the drug was approved only for the treatment of melanoma and that its recommended use was limited to its approved indication.

And there has not yet been an application for the subsidisation of Keytruda to treat mesothelioma, a federal health department spokesman said.

But Mrs Williams said she was testament to the possible benefits of the drug in treating mesothelioma.

She said she was given the expensive drug every three weeks and would continue to do so until she died.

But she said the quality of life Keytruda had afforded her made it worthwhile.

‘‘At Easter I was 42 kilograms, suffering from nausea, pain, and couldn’t dress myself,’’ she said.

A scan nine weeks after Mrs Williams started on Keytruda showed the shrinkage of tumours. By the fifth dose, Mrs Williams was taken off oxygen and her bloods were going up, and by the sixth she was well enough to campaign for mesothelioma awareness.

She said since blogging her journey she had been contacted by people in Australia and overseas about the drug.

‘‘I’ve got my life back and to have that when I was literally dying, it’s unbelievable,’’ she said.

‘‘I feel like I can do anything.’’

Mrs Williams said people could reach her for advice on eradicateasbestos@gmail.com.

Former Launceston resident Louise "Lou" Williams is campaigning to see the drug Keytruda added to the PBS for mesothelioma sufferers. Picture: SCOTT GELSTON

Former Launceston resident Louise "Lou" Williams is campaigning to see the drug Keytruda added to the PBS for mesothelioma sufferers. Picture: SCOTT GELSTON

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