Australia Leaving NZ Behind in Cancer Treatments


Breakthrough melanoma drug Keytruda is funded in Australia, its ‘available’ in NZ – but it will cost you $300,000

New Zealand drug agency Pharmac has been forced to counter allegations that Australians have better access to cancer medications than New Zealanders.

A report earlier this year showed that Australians had a lower death rate from cancer than New Zealanders.

Pharmac commissioned its own research to find out why  and concluded Kiwis have “access to the best cancer medicines available” (NB. Pharmac decides what drugs should be funded and “access” doesn’t include ability to pay/cost to patients).

For example, the Australian Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) lists the breakthrough drug Keytruda for the treatment of advanced melanoma. There are approximately 100 cancer-treating drugs available through the PBS costing $1.5 billion per year, including Tafinlar, Yervoy and Mekinist. Each one of those treatments would cost patients in the region of $100,000 without the government subsidy.

Keytruda, Yervoy, Tafinlar and Mekinist have not been approved by Pharmac in NZ.

The only funded treatment available for melanoma is NZ is chemotherapy, which is considered obsolete by international standards. This is ridiculous when you consider that NZ and Australia have the highest rates of melanoma in the world.

jeff patterson

Jeff Patterson needs up to $10,000 every three weeks to buy Keytruda in NZ. Please give a little here

Kiwi melanoma patient, 22 year old Jeff Patterson, needs to raise $300,00 to buy Keytruda to “keep him alive”. The drug is still ‘under consideration’ by Pharmac and could be funded in a couple of years even though Medsafe approved it for use earlier this year. Unfortunately Jeff Patterson can’t hang around to find out.

Pharmac has a subsidy budget of a mere $795 million for ALL its drugs and covers medicines prescribed by GPs and DHB hospitals. Many treatments are not released to Kiwis until they’re available in generic form (when they’re a lot cheaper) meaning there is often a delay of 10 years or more until new medications become available.

But things are set to get worse for Kiwis. Opponents of the TPPA say US corporations are hoping to weaken Pharmac’s ability to get inexpensive, generic medicines by forcing New Zealanders to pay for brand name drugs.

Doctors and organisations such as Medicins Sans Frontieres have expressed concern. The New Zealand Government denies the claims; Trade Negotiations Minister Tim Groser saying opponents of the deal are “fools” who are “trying to “wreck this agreement” (source it is easier to make ad hom attacks than address the issue.

In addition to the cancer medication issue, Kiwis are having to travel to Australia for oncology treatment that is unavailable in New Zealand. It is also known that NZ has a shortage of oncologists and many are deeply dissatisfied with the level of care they’re able to provide to patients.

In 2007, the Cancer Workforce Stocktake and Needs Assessment identified a range of issues for the different specialist and generalist workforces involved in cancer control. It reported that there werel insufficient medical oncologists to meet either workload or population-based benchmarks. The Workforce Stocktake recommended more detailed investigation be undertaken, particularly of issues affecting medical oncologist recruitment and retention.

One example of this is the Gynae-Oncology shortage, which renders NZ’s level of service ‘vulnerable” according to the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists

“A small number of highly skilled gynaecological oncologists are providing a much-needed specialist health service but they are struggling to cope due to inadequate resourcing,” says Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS).

“This group of medical specialists do a sterling job for women with gynaecological cancer but we really do need more of them and the service they provide needs to be better funded. The current situation is not sustainable and these specialists are at risk of burnout due to the workloads they have had to take on.” source

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Crisis looms for cancer service as MidCentral works on pay negotiations

Association of Professional and Executive Employees (APEX) union advocate David Munro said there was a looming crisis if New Zealand was not able to train and retain its own medical physicists, who are paid 30 to 50 per cent less than their Australian counterparts.

Medical physicists specialise in the science of radiation therapy and equipment.

MidCentral is one of six DHBs  in New Zealand with a cancer treatment centre, including radiation oncology.

For more about NZ’s ‘world class health system’ see our Wiki Page

6 thoughts on “Australia Leaving NZ Behind in Cancer Treatments

  1. New Zealand’s medical system is not only a horror a good example of this is earlier in the year in Wellington, there was a boy by the name of Alex Renton who was in Wellington Hospital, he was in the hospital because of a seizure and when it came to the family who was out of options, they tried to ask Wellington Hospital to see if they could try Hemp to get Alex Renton out of his coma, when Wellington Hospital finally agreed, it took a fortnight for Peter Dunne and the Ministry of Health to approve the Hemp medication for Alex Renton, this is a good example of being left to die after all medical options are tried.

    Another good example is ripoff medicine, currently in New Zealand, the Ministry of Health have approved a medicine called Sativex which is Medical Cannabis made by G.W. Pharma and people who have Multiple Sclerosis or even Arthritis or Epilepsy can qualify for it, there is a catch 22 situation, its not funded by Pharmac and it can cost $1,300 NZD a bottle. Many people in New Zealand cannot afford it at all and thats why when I tell my parents coming to New Zealand was a big mistake, first reaction was denial and in the end they would say I was even right about it.

  2. If anyone here watches TV1 at 7:00 pm on Sunday after the 6:00 pm news, they are doing a talk on a medicine in Australia which is free but costs around $10,000 in New Zealand

  3. This is a known fact that its not only cancer treatments that New Zealand lags behind Australia, when it comes to Arthritis medicine New Zealand also lags behind Australia

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