Metavivors march on Parliament

It was amazing to see so many wonderful, inspiring women march to Parliament recently to present petitions calling for funding of important medicines for advanced breast cancer. The women were joined by their whānau, family, friends and supporters on 16 October, carrying banners with strong messages and sharing powerful stories.  

Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition chairwoman Libby Burgess says: “It was such an amazing turnout of women from all over New Zealand who need these vital medicines. These passionate and inspiring Metavivors were there representing not only themselves but many other women, including some who had already passed away and some who were too unwell to attend the event.”

More than 100 people marched to the steps of Parliament and were met by 17 MPs who received the petitions. Six of the MPs were from the National Party and 11 from Labour.  Eight of the 11 Labour MPs are part of Labour's Māori Caucus. The petitions were warmly received and have been referred to the Health Select Committee.

On the day, speeches were given by petition organisers Terre Nicholson and Sue Wall-Cade about the need for two medicines – Ibrance (palbociclib) and Kadcyla (T-DM1 or trastuzumab emtansine). Libby and march organiser Wiki Malton Mulholland spoke about the need for a review of the whole medicines decision making system in New Zealand, including PHARMAC and the Government’s funding of medicines. Wiki’s husband, Malcolm Mulholland also presented a request that the Health Select Committee and Māori Affairs Select Committee conduct an investigation into PHARMAC – its funding, processes and culture, and the impact of the failure to fund medicines on New Zealanders.

Both Louisa Wall (Labour), who is Chair of the Health Select Committee, and Michael Woodhouse (National) who is a member of the select committee, acknowledged the need to conduct a review of PHARMAC.

Libby says: “New Zealanders deserve effective, timely and transparent decision making which isn’t happening at present. We need medicines that extend lives and improve quality of life. Government funding for medicines is grossly inadequate and must be significantly increased.”.

It was incredibly moving on the day to have the women who need these medicines stand on the steps of Parliament to challenge MPs to help them. “It is not ok for drugs that are available in comparable countries to remain unfunded in New Zealand while PHARMAC gives unspent money back to the Government as ‘savings’,” Libby says.

“We are not talking only about breast cancer medicines here – this is about all New Zealanders who should have access to the medicines they need.”

BCAC looks forward to the next steps in the Health Select Committee process in considering the petitions, and hopes palbociclib and T-DM1 will be funded in the near future. We also are very keen to see a wide-ranging review of New Zealand’s current medicines funding system.