Pharmac review a chance to end agonisingly slow drug approval process
“The next government must end the unfair and outdated evaluation process that means Kiwis with terminal breast cancer wait years longer for the latest drugs,” declared Breast Cancer Foundation NZ (BCFNZ) today, as it marks World Metastatic Breast Cancer Day.
With growing cross-party consensus for an independent review into Pharmac, BCFNZ is reminding politicians of the need to overhaul the drug-buying agency’s outdated mission and processes, in order to improve and extend the lives of advanced breast cancer (ABC) patients and other sick or dying New Zealanders.
Evangelia Henderson, chief executive of BCFNZ, said: “Pharmac is currently operating under an outdated model that means Kiwis have to wait years longer than they should for drugs they desperately need. While we’re thrilled to have new drugs approved over the past year, we know the same agonising situation is going to come up over and over again. It’s absurd that Australia and UK can approve treatments that are considered best practice, yet Pharmac says there’s not enough evidence that they work.”
Each year around 350 Kiwi women are diagnosed with ABC (also known as metastatic, secondary, or Stage 4 breast cancer), an incurable disease which has spread beyond the breast and lymph nodes to other parts of the body. BCFNZ’s 2018 report on ABC patients in NZ found they are dying twice as fast and receive less treatment than people in comparable countries.
“We, alongside ABC patients and doctors, have fought long and hard to keep this issue high on the agenda, so we’re relieved politicians have finally recognised the need to investigate Pharmac. Not only would new medicines extend the lives of ABC patients, they’d also transform ABC from being a terminal disease to a chronic condition that you can live with rather than die from. Our research shows ABC patients feel like the health system has given up on them – fixing Pharmac would be one way to show them they still matter,” added Mrs Henderson.