Media release: Plea for medicines funding

The Government must increase funding for medicines desperately needed by people with breast cancer and other cancers, Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition (BCAC) says.

“Women with breast cancer are going overseas, selling the family home and going into significant debt to get access to the medicines they need. A lot of women don’t have that option. This means if you have money or the ability to fundraise, you have a longer healthier life. That is a terrible inequity in our society today,” BCAC Chair Libby Burgess says.

Women with breast cancer of all types are denied access to medicines that are well proven in saving lives and giving women better quality of life to spend time with their families, do their jobs and engage with communities.

Abraxane, Afinitor, Faslodex, Halaven, Ibrance, Kadcyla, and Kisqali are a few examples. Perjeta and Tykerb are funded for some but not for all who need them. These are standard medicines funded in other countries. Some of these medicines have been on PHARMAC’s waiting list since 2006, 2010 up to 2017, 2018.

Other new innovative medicines are being developed all the time that would reduce overall costs to New Zealand – providing longer, better lives for patients, reducing hospital stays, having people working longer, reducing sickness benefit costs and reducing palliative care costs.

“We are suffering from a long legacy of denial and deprivation that seems set to continue. Women and their families are suffering. Young children are losing their mothers to breast cancer. This is totally unacceptable. The government needs to prioritise people and stop clinging on to the outdated PHARMAC model,” Libby says.

“PHARMAC decision making is slow and non-transparent. It takes too long for funding to be approved for effective medicines for breast and other cancers. New Zealand’s cancer death rate statistics, including for breast cancer, are far higher than other countries.”

Between 2009 and 2014, New Zealand ranked last out of 20 OECD countries in access to new medicines. In the UK, 80% of approved new medicines are publicly funded, in Australia 39%, but in New Zealand it is only 13%.

“We need to uncap and increase medicines funding and make PHARMAC’s processes faster and more transparent now to give New Zealanders the health outcomes they deserve,” Libby says.

Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition represents more than 30 breast cancer-related groups in New Zealand.

The Coalition’s comments follow media coverage of a Medicines New Zealand gathering in Wellington, and comments from Australian oncologist Professor John Zalcberg and New Zealand Cancer Society director Dr Christopher Jackson about insufficient and delayed funding of cancer medicines in New Zealand.

“We call on Minister of Health David Clark to listen to these expert opinions and address the horrendous situation that New Zealand cancer patients find themselves in.”

9 August 2018

Breast cancer facts and figures

  • Breast cancer accounts for more than 30% of all new female cancers.
  • It is the second most common cause of cancer death for women.
  • More than 3000 New Zealand women are diagnosed each year, and more than 600 die each year.
  • Māori women are 76% more likely to die from the disease after five years than New Zealand European women.
  • Pasifika women are twice as likely to die from the disease after five years than New Zealand European women.
  • Young women are also affected by breast cancer, around 400 women under the age of 44 are diagnosed each year.
  • About one per cent of all diagnosed cases of breast cancer in New Zealand are men.
  • New Zealanders are more likely to die from breast cancer than Australians.




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