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Pharmac Funding Announcement: “Don’t Back Away From Cancer Drug Plan,” Breast Cancer Foundation Begs

“Don’t use COVID-19 as an excuse to back away from your commitment to cancer patients,” Breast Cancer Foundation NZ begged the Government, in response to today’s announcement of an additional $160m over four years for Pharmac to secure the supply of approved medicines.

Evangelia Henderson, chief executive at Breast Cancer Foundation NZ, said, “Pharmac announced it will continue to take the same approach to approving new drugs that it’s taken for the last 27 years. We all know that’s not good enough for evaluating the latest, specialised cancer drugs. Even the Government acknowledged that last year, when it agreed to develop a plan for early access to new cancer medicines.”

Patients are still waiting for that plan, Mrs Henderson said, and it will be fatal to back away from it now. “While COVID-19 might be eliminated in New Zealand, cancer certainly won’t be. Developing a simpler, faster way to approve new cancer drugs, based on evidence accepted in other developed countries, will save or extend the lives of thousands of Kiwis.”

So far, 21 New Zealanders have died of COVID-19. This year, more than 600 women will die of breast cancer, and cancer overall will again likely be New Zealand’s biggest killer.

Evangelia Henderson noted that the great work the Government did in the early stages of COVID-19 has meant our health system hasn’t been overwhelmed by the pandemic. “Of course New Zealand must ensure secure access to approved drugs – that’s Pharmac’s daily bread and this new funding will help them do their job,” she said. “But we have less excuse than ever to be dragging our heels on finding a way to give Kiwis early access to new cancer drugs.”

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