New cancer drug gains approval
A drug that can give patients with advanced breast cancer a longer life has been approved for use in New Zealand – but a cancer sufferer warns most people won’t be able to afford it.
A month’s supply of the drug, called Ibrance, will cost $5000.
‘‘This drug is currently so expensive that it will be out of reach for most New Zealanders,’’ says Lower Hutt’s Mary Margaret Schuck.
‘‘I hope Pharmac can fund it so more people don’t die waiting, because they already have.’’
Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition (BCAC) chairwoman Libby Burgess said in a statement that hundreds of Kiwi women could potentially benefit from Ibrance now it was available.
The drug offers hope for people with advanced hormone receptor positive and HER2-negative breast cancer, she said. It would give them a better quality of life and more time with their loved ones.
‘‘BCAC and breast cancer patients are desperate to see Pharmac fund Ibrance for use in our public hospitals, and we hope this will happen in the near future.’’
Schuck warned on Sunday that good healthcare in New Zealand was in danger of becoming the preserve of the rich.
‘‘I hope Pharmac can fund it so more people don't die waiting, because they already have.’’
‘‘New Zealand needs to think about whether it wants to be a place like the United States where some people can afford healthcare and live, and some people who can’t afford it, die.’’
Schuck was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer in 2016 and has travelled to Malaysia five times since then to access Ibrance.
She said she would continue to do so because at $2500 for a month’s supply there, it was still cheaper than in New Zealand.
She has teenage children and values every extra hour she gets with them and her husband.
‘‘We are pretty sure the drug is the reason I am still alive today. I don’t know how long we can continue to do it when our mortgage grows larger with every trip overseas.
‘‘I’m really worried that the day will come when I’ll have to stop taking Ibrance because we can no longer afford it. And that will bring my death that much closer.’’
Preliminary clinical evidence for Ibrance was so strong that the United States Food and Drug Administration fast-tracked its use in America, BCAC said.
But Schuck said it had joined a backlog of about 100 drugs that Pharmac has to evaluate before the drug-buying agency will fund it.
‘‘Pharmac don’t get enough money from government and it means people miss out on potentially life-saving treatments.
‘‘The money is in the system. Does Hawke’s Bay really need a new road? That money could be the difference for a lot of sick people.’’