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National Electioneers over Herceptin

Hon David Cunliffe
Minister of Health

7th July 2008 Media Statement
National Electioneers over Herceptin

National is ignoring the scientific evidence for the 9-week Herceptin treatment and is cynically making an empty promise to New Zealand women and playing on the fears of women suffering from breast cancer.

“Today’s announcement by National spokeswoman Jackie Blue that National would fund a 12 month course of Herceptin also ignores the reality that 3 other cancer sufferers’ lives would be lost for every life that might be saved if 12-month Herceptin treatment was publicly funded,” said Health Minister David Cunliffe.

“What is so extraordinary about this is that National had been briefed two months ago by Pharmac’s CEO about the costs, risks and uncertainties around the 12 month treatment. “

“Mr Ryall was told that there is significant uncertainty around any additional benefit from the 12-month Herceptin treatment over the 9-week Herceptin treatment currently funded yet his party chooses to ignore the advice of Pharmac and its specialist advisers. That significantly undermines the Pharmac model and exposes all New Zealanders to the vagaries and costs of having drug purchasing decisions made by politicians,”said Mr Cunliffe.

“The National Party is also aware that the Minister can not lawfully direct Pharmac to fund a 12 month course. It also begs the question of just how will National run Pharmac and just what decisions will it allow Pharmac to make.”

“Concurrent 9-week’s Herceptin is available as a treatment choice in other countries (including Australia) and Pharmac’s position is that it has an open mind to funding 12 months Herceptin Treatment and when there was evidence that the 12 months treatment regime was more beneficial that the 9-week treatment regime. “

“At the moment Pharmac’s view of the evidence is that there is no additional benefit to the 12 month course. National is now playing political football with the fears and emotions of New Zealand women suffering from breast cancer when they are most vulnerable and in need of reassurance and support, “said Mr Cunliffe.


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