Media Release of the Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition and Lung Foundation New Zealand

In New Zealand on average every year:

1805 people die from lung cancer – that’s five people who die every day and a further six are diagnosed

674 people die from breast cancer – that’s 56 deaths a month

259 people die from ovarian cancer – one death every 48 hours

353 people die from Leukaemia in total

200 people die from Myeloma

This is the stark reality of the many thousands of people who are diagnosed with these debilitating, cruel diseases every year. For these people it is not only a matter of how long they will live but also how well they will live. All these New Zealanders deserve the best possible treatment and care.

“This is where our Government is failing our vulnerable people – by not funding the medicines they need. These medicines have been proven around the world and are funded in most comparable countries,” Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition Chair Libby Burgess says.

This is why hundreds of people are marching to Parliament today [7 May] to present petitions calling for proper funding of medicines. Six petitions are being presented by health groups, and two petitions by individuals. They will be met on the steps of Parliament by MPs representing all major parties.

Lung Foundation New Zealand CEO Philip Hope asks: “What do you call a parent who fails to provide the necessities of life for their child? The terms willful neglect and intentional negligence come to mind. This is how the Government and PHARMAC are behaving towards people with extremely serious illnesses who need high priority treatments.

“There is no good reason not to fund more effective treatments that keep patients well longer. 

PHARMAC often does not request sufficient budget to fund the treatments people need; this means they are intentionally under resourcing urgent treatments that means life for our most vulnerable.” 

Research proves that innovative medicines and precision medicines are cost neutral, because they keep people out of hospital, improve their quality of life, reduce severe side effects, and in many cases enable patients to go back to work.

“Today, patients with a terminal diagnosis can live longer with a good quality of life, providing they get the right treatment at the right time, combinations and staging,” Philip says. 

Libby says New Zealand has insufficient and slow access to effective innovative medicines. NZ consistently ranks last or second to last out of 20 OECD countries in access to new medicines.

“We desperately need to increase funding for the pharmaceuticals budget to the OECD average. We also need to reform PHARMAC’s processes to increase transparency, improve timeliness of funding decisions and involve consumers throughout the decision-making process.

“The harsh bureaucracy and endless delays surrounding applications for medicines only add to the distress of people waiting anxiously at home for news that the medicines they desperately need will be funded. Many people with terminal illnesses towards the end of their life know that they could have had more years and a better quality of life, if the medicines they needed were funded. Instead they die early and with much more suffering than they otherwise should have. This is heartbreaking and a tragedy not only for themselves but also for their family and whānau.”

A PHARMAC culture of rationing and deprivation was set 25 years ago when the Government’s medicines budget was capped, and KPIs were put in place around reducing spend, not improving health outcomes.

These are all reasons behind the march and the demands for change.

The health groups are Lung Foundation New Zealand, Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition, Ovarian Cancer New Zealand, Myeloma New Zealand, Pompe New Zealand and Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia Advocates New Zealand.

7 May 2019

Media contact: Ali Tocker
Phone 027 211 2159

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