New Zealanders have had a gutsful of restricted access to medicines. That’s what My Life Matters campaign organiser Malcolm Mulholland has concluded from his pre-election whistlestop tour of the country over the last 5 weeks (read more here). In meetings from Whangārei to Invercargill, patients and their families shared their experiences of being denied cancer and other medicines that they would receive free in other countries. BCAC and our members understand this struggle all too well. New Zealand still trails behind other countries badly, with 18 breast cancer medicines that are recommended in international guidelines not publicly funded here. You can read more about this here.

My Life Matters has raised public awareness of NZ’s woeful underfunding of medicines and helped to make this a political issue. The campaign roadshow ended in Auckland last night with a debate featuring representatives of the five main political parties facing questions about medicines access from moderator Guyon Espiner and the audience. You can view this debate here.

‘The battle for decent access to breast cancer medicines is a long way from over’ says BCAC Chair Libby Burgess. ‘There were glimmers of hope in some of the comments from candidates, but generally a lack of aspiration, clear plans and commitment to raising NZ from the very bottom of the OECD in funding and access to at least the middle. Our politicians must step up and take responsibility for fixing the broken medicines system that is hurting so many New Zealanders. Pharmac’s 30-year entrenched role of rationing medicines under a fixed budget should be reset to getting modern medicines to our people faster. Transparency and accountability are lacking, both vital elements of a process that people can understand and trust. We wait years longer than other countries for Medsafe approval and Pharmac funding of effective medicines. Clinical evaluation is compromised by Pharmac’s negotiating and purchasing functions and the two should be clearly separated. Patient voice is missing in the process.’

‘BCAC and its member groups will continue to fight for better access to breast cancer medicines until our leaders accept their clear mandate to get on with long overdue reform’ said Libby. ‘They could take the best from the UK, Australian, Japanese, German and other models to come up with an effective modern system that delivers longer, healthier lives for our people’.

The event ended with Malcolm extracting a promise from the representatives that they would return for another debate in 18 months’ time.

5 October 2023

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