IT is his last hope of having a normal heartbeat – but the rationing watchdog NICE is refusing to make the new £2-a-day drug available on the NHS.

Martin Harman, of Elvington, near York, suffers from atrial fibrillation (AF) – a type of abnormal heartbeat affecting more than a million people in Britain.

The 37-year-old said he had stopped taking the medication that is available on the NHS because of extreme side-effects.

His only hope is a new drug called dronedarone, which clinical trials have shown to be an effective treatment with far fewer side-effects.

Martin said: “There is an existing drug that restored me back to a normal heart rhythm, but it was the most toxic drug available and I suffered horrendous side-effects. My skin even turned yellow and I’m not comfortable taking that drug for the next 30 or 40 years.”

Martin is supporting a campaign by the Atrial Fibrillation Association to appeal against draft guidance by NICE to deny NHS access to dronedarone.

He said that one-in-four people who had strokes had AF and one of the biggest arguments against the denial of the drug was that it would be effective in preventing people from having a stroke.

He said: “To treat a stroke patient costs thousands of pounds, where as to give somebody this drug would cost £2 a day. What is being ignored is that this can help reduce the amount of patients that have stroke. It is a blinkered view, as they are not looking at long- term savings.”

Martin, who is director of Aqua Point Ltd, in Malton, described how AF could destroy the patient’s quality of life.

Andrew Dillon, chief executive of NICE, said the independent appraisal committee had considered evidence that dronedarone may have fewer side-effects.

But he said this evidence was collected over a relatively short period of time and it was not certain what the longer-term side-effects of dronedarone would be. He said: “This uncertainty, alongside the drug’s lower effectiveness and higher cost meant that the committee was not able to recommend dronedarone.”