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Human toll must be factored in Herceptin decision

Human toll must be factored in Herceptin decision

National's Associate Health spokeswoman and breast specialist Jackie Blue is urging Pharmac to factor in the human toll and fallout that is occurring when it meets February 16 to consider funding the breast cancer drug Herceptin.

Herceptin is currently funded for advanced breast cancer but international studies have proven that when it is used early in the disease, relapse is halved, says Dr Blue.

“This is astonishing and there is every hope Herceptin will prove over time to be a cure for the 25 per cent of women who are able to take it.

“Quite understandably women with these aggressive, Herceptin-responsive breast cancers don't want to wait for the cancer to spread to their liver, lungs, bones or brain before they can get access to it.”

Dr Blue says women are going to desperate lengths to find the $100,000 or so to fund the year-long course and it couldn't happen at a worse time.

“These women are at their lowest physically and emotionally, having had to face a breast cancer diagnosis, undergo surgery and toxic chemotherapy.

“Because the amount of the drug needed for treatment is linked to body weight, women are trying to diet to get their weight down to further reduce the cost.

“As well, because there appears to be a big variation in oncologist charges across the country, women are considering traveling hundreds of kilometres to get the treatment.

“It’s cruel and inhumane that many women have to resort to what amounts to public begging to find the money, mortgage their homes to the maximum, or face not taking the medication and the greater risk of the cancer returning and possible death.

“If it eventuates that the Labour Government is comfortable in denying these women a drug that could cure them, I am certainly not.

“National has said it will boost funding to Pharmac so that funding for drugs like Herceptin becomes a reality.”

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