Topic: Health

Husband demands inquiry into PHARMAC costs for life saving cancer drugs

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Malcolm Mulholland says his wife is battling breast cancer and is finding it difficult to access drugs in NZ because of costs. He is calling for the Māori Affairs Select Committee to hold an inquiry into PHARMAC to reduce the costs.

For Malcolm Mulholland and his wife Wiki, keeping up with the $6900 monthly cost for her life savings drugs is a struggle.

Mulholland says "As a result of looking at why Ibrance [drug] is funded overseas and not here at home, it became pretty evident to me that PHARMAC was to blame and there was a lot of shortcomings as to their funding process."

He is urging the Māori Affairs Select Committee to hold an inquiry on behalf of other families in the same boat.

But after four months has yet to receive a response.

"My wero to the members of the Māori Affairs Select Comittee is this; if you're not there to improve the lives of our people who are less fortunate than others, for our people who have sadly been diagnosed with a terminal illness such as cancer then really what is the purpose of you being there?" says Mulholland.

Select committee Chairman Rino Tirikatene says they opened a briefing in October last year and expect a response from PHARMAC by the end of the month.

"We haven't been sitting on our hands as a committee, we are demanding answers from PHARMAC."

According to the Ministry of Health statistics Māori are twice as likely to die from advanced cancers as non-Māori.

In October last year, the Mulhollands and 150 other women submitted two petitions to Māori Affairs and the Health select committees to fund breast cancer drugs Ibrance and Kadcyla.

In a statement to Te Kāea, PHARMAC Chief Executive Sarah Fitt says eight cancer drugs including Ibrance and Kydcyla would be considered this month. 

Dr Christopher Jackson, Medical Director of the Cancer Society of NZ says although funding for drugs in New Zealand is wanting an inquiry would not improve progress but more investment into cancer prevention would go further for Māori survival outcomes.

"Certainly cancer drugs help people live better and live longer but if we want to improve cure rates we need to make sure we are picking cancers up earlier."

The Māori Affairs Select Committee will meet next week.