Reflecting on a year of achievement

We had a fabulous opportunity to look back at everything we have achieved this year at our AGM in Auckland recently. A wonderful group of women came together from different parts of the country to share their perspectives and discuss the opportunities ahead.

Our chairperson Libby Burgess gave an update on all that has been achieved by BCAC this year – and it’s a lot. Work has included seeking funding for new medicines, making applications for medicines, meeting decision makers to push for positive change and working to finalise a new 4th edition of BCAC’s Step by Step support pack.

Medicines applications

We applied for four medicines to be funded that would make a tremendous difference to the lives of people with advanced breast cancer: Afinitor (everolimus); Abraxane (nab-paclitaxel); Faslodex (fulvestrant); and Ibrance (palbociclib) 2nd and later line.

March to Parliament

We joined Metavivors, who are a strong voice for change, in their march to Parliament in October. They presented two petitions to Parliament calling for funding of two important medicines for women with advanced breast cancer – Ibrance and Kadcyla. They were supported by more than 100 whānau, family and supporters, and were met on the steps of Parliament by 17 MPs who accepted the petition.

Ministerial meetings

We met with, and provided briefings to decision makers on key issues for women with breast cancer. Meetings were held with the Associate Minister of Health Hon. Julie Anne Genter, National Party Health Spokesperson Hon. Michael Woodhouse Member, and Health and Wellbeing Caucus member Hon. Louisa Wall. We also provided our written briefing to the Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Jacinda Ardern, then Acting Prime Minister Hon. Winston Peters, and the Minister of Health Hon. David Clark.

Key issues and recommendations

Key issues raised were New Zealand’s high mortality rates, inequities for Māori and Pasifika women, and low and slow access to medicines. NZ is 19th/20th of 20 OECD countries for access to new medicines. Solutions called for include increasing the medicines budget to the OECD average, and exploring innovative solutions such as Early Access Scheme and Cancer Drugs Fund.

To help address inequities for Māori and Pasifika women, our recommended actions include introducing breast cancer screening at age 40, initially targeted to Māori and Pasifika; and ensuring the public system welcomes women of all cultures equally and appropriately. We also recommend supporting New Zealand-based studies to find ways to improve outcomes for Māori and Pasifika women with breast cancer.

We continued our liaison with the Ministry of Health, PHARMAC and Breast Screening Aotearoa to continue to seek the best possible services and treatments for women. We interacted with a range of patient groups in New Zealand and internationally.

Submissions

We wrote submissions to PHARMAC on its Consumer Voice consultation describing how relationships with consumers could be improved. We called for a complete reform of PHARMAC for greater transparency, speedier decision making, more effective decisions and consumer input at all stages. This would include putting in place defined timelines for decisions for greater certainty for patients and their whānau.

We made a range of other submissions including calling for extended funding for Perjeta (jointly with BCFNZ), and for intra-operative radiotherapy to be introduced into the public health system.

The future

Looking to the year ahead we will continue our work to support and empower those with breast cancer to make informed choices about their treatment and care. We will continue to provide a voice for New Zealanders who experience breast cancer. And we will continue our work to make world-class detection, treatment and care accessible to all those affected by breast cancer in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

This will include seeking improved clinical trial access for NZ breast cancer patients, highlighting the needs of those with metastatic breast cancer and continuing the fight for the medicines women with breast cancer need and deserve.

Elections

Also at the AGM, Libby Burgess was re-elected as Chairperson unopposed. The full committee was re-confirmed.

 

7 Dec 2018

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