Arthritis Sufferer Targets MPs

An Ulster woman who waited 18 months in agony for desperately needed rheumatoid arthritis wonder drugs, has gone to the House of Commons – to campaign for a better deal for patients across the UK. Armed with a five-point action plan, Hazel Mark was one of 10 women urging the Government to provide more cash for life-changing treatment such as Remicade and Enbrel. As part of their campaign, Hazel (38), from Ballymena, and other women were interviewed by MPs throughout the UK for a special book on the condition.

Hazel was interviewed by DUP MP Iris Robinson who joined her at the House of Commons yesterday. The ‘Women in RA’ campaign highlights the fact that three times as many women suffer from the condition as men. It calls for urgent Government action to help women with the illness and proper funding for the latest and best treatment.

The campaign is sponsored by Theresa May MP, together with nine other female MPs and the charities – National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society and Arthritis Care. It is supported by the launch of an 80 page photo book where ten female MPs take on the role of journalists and interview ten women with Rheumatoid Arthritis about their battle with the disease.

Ten powerful stories about women living with RA are captured in this book called ‘Women’s Insight into Rheumatoid Arthritis’ launched to support the campaign and inspire women to fight the disease.

Hazel has suffered from the condition since she was just 16. While she waited for treatment she was in constant pain. She had led an active lifestyle but concerned the disease would impact on her ability to continue doing the things she loved.

“I thought there was no way I would be able to deal with six and seven year olds at the Girls’ Brigade,” she said.

“I thought it was the end. I thought I wouldn’t be able to do these things again. But you have to be positive. Clinics in Northern Ireland are so busy. I know other people who are struggling to get the best treatment. I would like to see more access for people to specialised treatment and services.
People just don’t realise how severe it can be. I thought the same until I was diagnosed. There is information there, but people have to look for it. They often just think it is an old person’s disease.”

Mrs Robinson, who has long campaigned for a better deal for patients across Northern Ireland, said: “Hazel’s story is inspiring. “The things that we all take for granted, such as opening cans, lifting a baby, and just being able to get out of bed, are now possible for Hazel.”

New treatments are only available for those patients who have tried, unsuccessfully many other treatments.

The Belfast Telegraph was first to highlight the problem several years ago when we launched our ‘End Their Agony’ campaign to allow more patients access to the drugs. Currently, there are more than 400 patients on a waiting list for treatment.