AYDA Louden's parents say they have been given the strength to carry on fighting thanks to the overwhelming support they have received.

Dave and Stacey Louden, of Sandsfield Park, Carlisle, are campaigning for a vital cystic fibrosis drug to be made available on the NHS in the hope that it could prolong their three-year-old daughter's life.

They shared her story last week urging people to sign a petition to bring the debate back to Parliament.

Since then it has been signed by almost 6,000 more people.

"It has been incredible, the amount of people who have shared it and the interest in the campaign," said Dave 34. "People's comments have been so kind and so supportive it really has given us the strength to carry on fighting."

Stacey said: "I didn't expect it to be as big as it has been and how much support people have shown."

Ayda's condition, which affects 10,400 people in the UK, means she has to take 20 to 30 tablets a day. But these medicines are just a prevention and treat only the symptoms of cystic fibrosis.

While there is no cure, a precision drug called Orkambi - which has been licensed for three years and is available in 11 other EU countries - would tackle the underlying genetic defects that cause the condition.

For someone as young as Ayda, this medication could prolong her life by about 23 years and Ayda's seven-year-old brother Alfie made his own plea this week.

He said: "Please help my sister get her medicine."

It has so far been deemed too expensive for funding by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). The Government and drugs manufacturer Vertex Pharmaceuticals are now at an impasse.

The issue was raised in Parliament by North Herefordshire MP Bill Wiggin who called on the Government to make use of the legal provision in UK patent law of Crown use licensing. Mr Wiggin said: "This is a legal opportunity to break the lethal deadlock that eats away at the youngest sufferers who stand to gain the most from this medicine. Crown use licensing has been used by the UK Government before, to great effect. They can suspend a patent and thereby force down the high price of particular pharmaceutical or medical equipment."

Health minister Steve Brine said: "Every effort must be made to ensure that effective medicines are made widely available to cystic fibrosis patients. There is no doubt and no debate about that.

"We, too, have considered this option. Indeed, I have received initial advice on Crown use licensing. While the use of these mechanisms is not our preference, we are looking at all options. Crown use licensing is complicated, and it would not represent a quick solution to ensuring patient access to Orkambi."

In a statement Vertex said: "We are determined to find a solution that allows the NHS to provide patient access to our precision medicines across the UK with budget certainty and also allows Vertex to continue its research and focus on a cure for CF and other serious diseases.

"To invoke Crown Use and provide 3rd parties access to Vertex’s Intellectual Property would seriously undermine our ability to achieve these goals and would significantly weaken incentives for future innovation."

Sign the petition at bit.ly/2MIp2BT.