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Cancer drugs stopped mid-treatment

Paul Hutchison - National Party Health Spokesman

10 March 2005

Cancer drugs stopped mid-treatment

The Minister of Health must stop the callous treatment of cancer patients having their drugs switched mid-therapy because of Government policy, says National’s Health spokesman, Paul Hutchison.

Frances Borich is one of up to 25 patients on a drug trial for adjuvent metastatic cancer at Auckland Hospital.

On February 9, without explanation or informed consent, she was told that the drug Zometa, which was helping her fight cancer, would be stopped.

Dr Hutchison says when she attended the hospital a week later, she was told that because the replacement drug took five times longer to infuse, taking up nursing time and hospital space, she was unlikely to get another appointment for more than 18 weeks.

“I challenge the Health Minister Annette King to stop Pharmac making decisions based on the cost of the cheaper drug. In this case they have not factored in the added nursing costs to the hospital or the despair and anguish to cancer patients.

“Only a year ago, patients dying of cancer had their choice of pain relief stopped by the same policies and it was only after huge pressure that changes occurred.

“Labour’s cancer initiative of $5.3 million for treatment services is totally inadequate to achieve optimal treatment for cancer sufferers in New Zealand.

“Labour is simply ignoring a cancer crisis. There is an urgent need for an independent inquiry into cancer services, as medical specialists like Professor Ron Jones have frequently pointed out,” says Dr Hutchison.

ENDS

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