Pharmac’s announcement it won’t fund 12 month courses of Herceptin for women with aggressive Her-2 breast cancer has been labelled a cruel blow by Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition chair, Libby Burgess.
Ms Burgess said it was “unbelieveable and shameful” that New Zealand women were denied the standard of care offered elsewhere.
“It’s a bad outcome, but we’re not terribly surprised by it. But we are of course extremely disappointed.
“This is a cruel blow for women and their families. Phamac’s continuing refusal to fund the treatments New Zealanders need is simply inhumane.”
Ms Burgess said that, to access the 12 month treatment their doctors were recommending, women had to fundraise the tens of thousands of dollars needed.
“This adds huge stress and suffering for women when they most need support and comfort … I am amazed Government hasn’t stepped in to end this inhumane treatment of our women.
“Increased funding for medicines including Herceptin will surely become an election issue. That will give voters the opportunity to decide.
Pharmac chief executive Matthew Brougham said the cost wasn’t the reason the drug won’t be funded.
“I want to be absolutely clear; this decision is not about the cost of Herceptin. This decision rests solely on the science and our assessment, our confidence, around whether or not funding 12 months treatment with Herceptin would produce additional health benefits.”
But he also said:
[Pharmac] had to consider all illnesses and treatments, not just cancer, and had to make a decision with limited funds about what would bring the greatest benefits.
“It’s not about who can scream the loudest and make the most noise.”
When I was a health board member a doctor told me that when he first started going to international conferences he rarely encountered anything which wasn’t available in New Zealand. But gradually we’ve slipped behind other first world countries and at all the conferences he attended recently he found equipment, treatment or medication which we couldn’t afford.
That conversation took place at least four years ago. Today’s announcement by Pharmac that it won’t fund 12 month courses of Herceptin for women with aggressive Her-2 breast cancer indicates the situation hasn’t improved.
National’s associate health spokeswoman, Dr Jackie Blue, says women have been let down by the decision.
Dr Blue, a former breast physician, says 33 countries now fund 12 months Herceptin as the standard of care.
“It’s totally incomprehensible that the Government’s drug-buying agency is persisting with this sub-optimal and unproven nine-week course.”
Dr Blue can confirm that a National Government will free up funds to fund the full 12-month Herceptin programme.
Remember this from the 1999 election campaign?
Helen Clark defended Labour’s plan to raise personal tax on earnings above $60,000, saying she had lost count of the number of people who had said they did not mind paying more tax if it was spent on health and education.
But Labour took far more tax than it has needed and spent too much of it on the wrong things. If we want first world health services we need a first world economy and that needs policies which promote economic growth not those which concentrate on redistribution.