Health Select Committee told to review medicines funding

Three people who are fighting to have important medicines funded for women with advanced breast cancer appeared before Parliament’s Health Select Committee hearing on 4 December to strongly put their case.

Terre Nicholson, Wiki Malton Mulholland and Malcolm Mulholland were all leaders in a march to Parliament in October, and did a magnificent job on 4 December explaining the urgent need for action. A number of Metavivors attended the hearing in support while others watched online.

To see media coverage of the hearing, and watch the hearing itself, see links at the end of this article. 

In October more than 100 Metavivors and their supporters marched to Parliament to present two petitions calling for funding of the medicines Ibrance and Kadcyla. The petitions were received by 17 MPs on the steps of Parliament and referred to the select committee. Also at the march, Malcolm presented a letter to MPs asking for an inquiry into PHARMAC, the government’s drug-buying agency and main decision maker that chooses which medicines are funded.

As a result, Terre, Wiki and Malcolm were invited to make submissions to the committee and speak to them.

Terre, the organiser of the Ibrance petition, says the committee hearing went well and their submissions were well received.

“We were able to tell the personal experiences of Metavivors and the toll that PHARMAC decisions or lack of decisions take. The system is broken – it’s clearly not working.

“PHARMAC takes three years on average to review a drug.  That’s likely to be too long for me.  While they have committees, panels, reviews, and bureaucracy, my time is ticking.  This gives biological clock a whole new meaning.  While PHARMAC takes months to write meeting minutes, they are taking time away from me, and others like me.”

Wiki told the committee Ibrance is the next medicine she needs and it is heart-breaking it is not funded. She wants more time to spend with her husband and children. Wiki also explained that, as a Māori woman, research shows that survival rates after five years are only 5% for Māori compared to 15% for non-Māori.

Malcolm says he put across that PHARMAC is severely underfunded and that it takes far too long to fund drugs. There is a lack of transparency and timeframes, and the culture of PHARMAC needs to change.

“New Zealand’s cancer statistics are damning when it comes to length and quality of life. The statistics for Māori and Pasifika women are extremely alarming. Cancer is on the rise. The number of effective drugs is also increasing and we are not keeping up in this country.”

Malcolm says he is hopeful the call for an inquiry into PHARMAC will be listened to.

5 Dec 2018

Click here for an update on this story (10 Dec 2018).

Check out recent media coverage about the Health Select Committee hearing:

TV One News: 'I'm sad and scared' - breast cancer sufferer gives emotional plea to select committee over funding

Te Karere Maori News: Breast cancer sufferer pleads for inquiry into PHARMAC

Stuff: I'm sick of seeing my friends die: Breast cancer fighter's desperate plea for medication


Watch the Health Select Committee hearing:

Recorded on the day of the presentations, 4 December 2018


Article Type: