Friday, June 14, 2024

Luxon commits to funding new cancer drugs

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Botany MP and Prime Minister Christopher Luxon promised his Government would fund 13 new cancer drugs if elected. File photo supplied

New Zealand cancer organisations have published an open letter to the Government calling out its failure to follow through on a policy commitment made during last year’s general election campaign.

The National Party’s 2023 campaign manifesto states that if elected to Government it would pay for 13 cancer treatments that are helping extend survival rates in Australia by making them available to patients in New Zealand.

“Under National, New Zealanders will not have to leave the country, mortgage their home, or start a Givealittle page to fund potentially lifesaving and life-extending treatments that are proven to work and are readily available across the Tasman.

“National will allocate $280 million in ring-fenced funding to Pharmac over four years to pay for these therapies.

“We think this is a better use of taxpayers’ money than paying $5 prescription fees for everyone, including those who can afford to pay the $5 themselves.”

The open letter is written on behalf of Patient Voice Aotearoa, Breast Cancer Foundation, Cancer Society, Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition, Leukemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand, Lung Foundation New Zealand, Melanoma NZ, Bowel Cancer NZ, Prostate Cancer Foundation NZ, Gut Cancer Foundation NZ, Brain Tumour Support NZ, Head and Neck Cancer Support Network NZ, Ovarian Cancer Foundation NZ, Myeloma NZ, and Talk Peach.

It’s addressed to Botany MP and Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, Finance Minister Nicola Willis and Associate Minister of Health (Pharmac) David Seymour.

The letter reiterates the National Party’s commitment to fund new cancer drugs.

“According to the National election manifesto, that fund was to start on July 1 this year by reinstating the $5 prescription fee.

“As you stated Prime Minister, those 13 medicines are ‘for lung, bowel, kidney, melanoma, and head and neck cancers that provide significant clinical benefits and are funded in Australia but not in New Zealand’.”

The letter says cancer patients and advocates sat in disbelief when Budget 2024 was announced.

“We have now learnt those 13 medicines may not be funded for at least a year.

“Patients don’t have a year to wait and will sadly have to look at all the heartbreaking scenarios your party wanted to put an end to.

“Bowel cancer patients have already been waiting for 22 years, the last time a new medicine was funded to treat them.

“We implore you to make good on your commitment to fund these 13 medicines with the utmost urgency.

“As you may also know, no blood cancers and certain solid tumour cancers like breast and prostate, are not catered for in the list of 13 medicines.

“We welcome the opportunity to work with you to address New Zealand’s medicines crisis that sees hundreds of thousands of Kiwis miss out on medicines that are funded in most other developed countries.”

Following the delivery of Budget 2024, Luxon said the Government was intending to announce funding for cancer drug treatments later this year.

He also said in a television interview he will deliver on the promise to fund the drugs.

“We remain committed to getting those treatments.”

Health Minister Dr Shane Reti announced on Budget Day the health sector was to get a funding boost of $16.68 billion across three Budgets.

The funding is part of the Government’s plan to invest in frontline services such as emergency departments, primary care, medicines and public health “to ensure New Zealanders can get the healthcare they deserve”, he said.

“We are committed to improving the frontline health services New Zealanders rely on, with shorter wait times for assessment and treatment.”

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