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Response to Health Select Committee press release

Response to Health Select Committee press release dated December 7, 2018, “Health Committee considering breast cancer medicines and PHARMAC funding”

Last week, the Health Select Committee heard submissions on a letter requesting an inquiry into unfunded cancer medicines and PHARMAC, and on two recent online petitions, signed by nearly 34,000 New Zealanders, pleading for funding of important drugs for advanced breast cancer (ABC).

These drugs, Kadcyla and palbociclib (or its equivalent), are funded in countries such as Australia and the UK, and have been proven to slow disease and extend life for people with terminal breast cancer. Oncologists around New Zealand are prescribing these drugs to patients who can pay privately, but most Kiwis are missing out.

“Unfortunately, the committee dashed our hopes of a speedy and thorough enquiry,” said Evangelia Henderson, chief executive at Breast Cancer Foundation NZ, which supported the petitioners and has supplied key data to PHARMAC in support of new ABC medicines. “The announcement that the committee has ‘opened a briefing’ on PHARMAC funding and access to drugs falls well short of the needed enquiry. I’m worried we’ll end up talking for months, when these patients need urgent action to prolong their lives.”

Mrs Henderson commended the courage and persistence of ABC patients Wiki Mulholland and Terre Nicholson who fronted up to the committee in Wellington; she urged the committee to go ahead with a full enquiry. “These women and their supporters are amazing. What they want – what we all want – is hardly unreasonable. We’re asking for New Zealand to have the same publicly funded medicines as other Western countries – and to have it now.”

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