Raising voices for positive change: Metavivors NZ advocacy

Metavivors NZ is a Facebook-based group where women with advanced breast cancer communicate with each other about how they are doing, and share comfort and information.

As well as being a tremendous source of support for each other, some members of Metavivors NZ are also raising awareness of the specific needs of women with advanced breast cancer and advocating for better medicines, treatment options and support.

It is up to each member to decide how involved they want to be in this. There is no pressure on anyone to take part and you may prefer to be part of Metavivors NZ for the support, friendship and strength people share.

A powerful group united for better treatment and medicines access

Many Metavivors NZ members have joined together recently to raise their voices more loudly and collectively than before, demanding improvements from the health system for women with advanced breast cancer.

News stories have appeared throughout the country with women telling their personal stories. They are describing the effects of the disease on themselves, their families and their communities, and are explaining why they so desperately need medicines that aren’t funded in New Zealand. The feedback has been huge with support throughout the country.

The women have been shining a light on the fact that NZ has among the worst access to new medicines in the world. Many organisations are supporting their calls for better treatment, care and access to medicines. This includes Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition (BCAC), the Breast Cancer Foundation NZ, the Cancer Society, oncologists and others.

This active and coordinated approach to calling for change for advanced breast cancer medicines is growing in traction and awareness in 2019.

First march to Parliament:

A powerful march was held in mid-October 2018 when more than 100 Metavivors and their supporters from all over the country marched to Parliament demanding better access to medicines. They presented petitions for two specific medicines hailed as game changers for women with advanced breast cancer – Ibrance and Kadcyla.

A letter demanding a review of PHARMAC was also presented. Seventeen MPs gathered on the steps of Parliament to receive the petitions and letter, and listen to what the Metavivors and their supporters had to say.

The march organisers were Metavivor Wiki Malton Mulholland and her husband Malcolm Mulholland, with support from many others. The letter calling for a review of PHARMAC was written and presented by Malcolm and again supported by many others.

One petition was organised by Metavivor Terre Nicholson and called for the funding of Ibrance (palbociclib). The other petition was organised by Sue Wall-Cade and called for the funding of Kadcyla (trastuzumab emtansine).

A result of the march and petitions is that Parliament’s Health Select Committee is currently gathering evidence, listening to the petitioners and other Metavivors, and hearing from PHARMAC, the Ministry of Health and others with a view to making recommendations on possible ways forward. Metavivor activists have not been impressed with the lack of progress to date.

Listen to Metavivors' and advocates' presentations at the Health Select Committee here:


4 December 2018: Terre Maize, Wiki Mulholland, Malcolm Mulholland

13 March 2019: A range of Metavivors presented

20 March 2019: Another group of Metavivors presented

Second march to Parliament: 

On 7 May 2019 Metavivors, Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition (BCAC) and other breast cancer supporters joined with other health advocacy groups and individuals to march to Parliament to present strongly worded petitions to Parliament demanding proper funding of medicines.

In total, eight petitions were formally presented to MPs, asking that 26 drugs be funded for six diseases. The health groups are Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition, Lung Foundation New Zealand, Ovarian Cancer New Zealand, Myeloma New Zealand, Pompe New Zealand and Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia Advocates New Zealand.

“Collectively, we’re giving Parliament, the Government and PHARMAC the strong message that there needs to be significant change – and it must happen now,” BCAC chair Libby says.

Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition petition 

A petition from BCAC was presented at this march on 7 May 2019, in the name of BCAC deputy chair Emma Crowley. The petition calls for the House of Representatives to urge the Minister of Health to provide sufficient funding to Pharmac to subsidise all of the drugs listed in the European ESMO guidelines for the treatment of advanced breast cancer.

See the BCAC petition here

 See Emma Crowley's speech to MPs here

Read more about the march and petitions:

First march to Parliament:

18 Oct 2018:  Metavivors march on Parliament

Health Select Committee hearings:

10 Dec 2018: Health Select Committee gathering information on drug funding

12 Feb 2019:  Breast cancer patients die while waiting for medicines demanded at march

 Second march to Parliament:

30 April 2019: Health groups marching to Parliament to present multiple petitions

3 May 2019: Health groups urge NZers to sign petitions by 6 May

7 May 2019: The unacceptable death toll behind march to Parliament





Page updated: 7 May 2019