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Tunnel vision approach to funding Glivec

Media Release

27 June 2002

Tunnel vision approach to funding Glivec ignores community-wide benefits

The Leukaemia and Blood Foundation of New Zealand says that the Government's and Pharmac's tunnel vision means people are going to die even though a drug is available to save their lives.

The patient group's chairman, Mr Douglas Strong, said the Government drug-funding agency does not take into account other costs to taxpayers when it decides whether or not to pay for a new treatment.

"We have people with chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) who are consuming huge hospital, disability and healthcare costs when funding the therapy Glivec could put them back into the community and literally give their lives back to them."

The Foundation is arguing that Pharmac should, on an urgent basis, conclude a purchase arrangement to provide Glivec to people with chronic myeloid leukaemia.

"Pharmac already pays up to $35,000 for interferon treatment for these people. Add to this the cost of half of them not being able to work and one-third of them having to spend periods of time in hospital coping with the side-effects of interferon treatment. Then add the costs of loss of income, loss of tax, welfare benefits and home care."

The Foundation says the benefits of Glivec have been recognised and accepted throughout the international medical community.

"It literally is a wonder drug and it's terribly frustrating for New Zealanders not to be able to access it."

Mr Strong was in Wellington today to personally deliver his submission for funding to Pharmac and to politicians. He was joined by a number of people with chronic myeloid leukaemia who are also calling on Pharmac and Government to fund Glivec.

Pharmac has given interested parties until July 5 to comment on its plans to fund Glivec for use only in patients in advanced disease.

"Patients for whom Glivec is most effective - those with early disease - are being ignored," said Mr Strong.

"A committee of cancer specialists, set up to provide expert opinion on the usefulness of this drug and other new cancer treatments, recommended in March that Glivec should be funded in both early and advanced stages of CML. It's time the Government and its agency Pharmac moved on this advice."

Hugo Geluk, of Paekakariki, says he can't afford to pay the cost of the drug himself.

"I suppose it's a question of am I worth $60,000 a year?" said Mr Geluk. "My family and friends think I am, my grandkids do.

"I can see why Pharmac is kicking against the price but then again, it costs more in a year to have me in hospital. Then it costs even more to have a person in jail. I don't know where the justice is in all this. If they cut many of us off from Glivec it really will be a death sentence ..."


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