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Women with Advanced Breast Cancer Ask the PM to Intervene

On Wednesday 13th March, ten women with advanced breast cancer presented to the Health Select Committee (HSC) to plead their case for two life extending drugs, Ibrance and Kadcyla, to be funded, and for an inquiry to be held into PHARMAC. The following morning the Minister of Health, Dr David Clark, expressed the opinion on television that he did not wish for an inquiry to be held into PHARMAC because they do a great job in purchasing medicines for New Zealand. This is the second time Dr Clark has made such comments in a clear attempt to exert his influence on the HSC not to hold an inquiry into PHARMAC.

Metavivor, Sue Wall-Cade, states “Dr Clark needs to stop trying to influence the decision of the HSC regarding an inquiry into PHARMAC. As he knows, the Cabinet Manual states that the select committees operate separately to the Executive; he himself said that the HSC acts as a ‘watchdog’ on his actions and yet he repeatedly passes comment that they should not hold an inquiry into PHARMAC. These are staggering remarks, especially given he has not heard any of our presentations or attended any of the HSC hearings.” Citing the example of the Prime Minister who was asked the same question about if the HSC should hold an inquiry into PHARMAC, Wall-Cade states “The Prime Minister was very clear that the select committee “…are free to do the work they wish to do as a committee…” and that she would not block an inquiry. The PM needs to reign in her Minister of Health and remind him of the checks and balances of his ministerial warrant.”

Metavivor Terre Nicholson said that the comments posted by the women who presented to the HSC and other Metavivors, some of whom are presenting next Wednesday (20th March) to the HSC, are heart breaking. “Some of the women have been in tears all day after watching Clark try to pour cold water over an inquiry into PHARMAC. They are questioning the integrity of the HSC process and some have wondered if they should present in Wellington next week as they believe Clark and his cabinet colleagues have already decided there will be no inquiry. It’s hard-enough living with an illness that will claim our lives, let alone share our stories and frustration about PHARMAC with the HSC. Imagine how we feel, hearing that the whole process is a foregone conclusion, that our efforts have been a waste of time, time that we do not have. Are we just wasting our time and money to go to Wellington? Our pleas are now directed to the Prime Minister. Can she please guarantee that Dr Clark and her entire Cabinet will not influence the decision made by the HSC whether or not to hold an inquiry into PHARMAC? Without such an undertaking, this process is a joke and a real slap in the face to women who are dying. Dr Clark has repeatedly tried to take away the only thing we have left – hope – and I think it’s disgraceful.”

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