World-leading breast cancer expert calls on Pharmac to make two new breast cancer drugs more affordable

Source: 1News

Pressure is mounting on Pharmac to make two new breast cancer drugs more affordable, as a world-leading expert says New Zealand is falling behind other developed countries in its treatment of advanced breast cancer.

Auckland woman Wiki Mullholland has been pushing for better treatment of advanced breast cancer since she was diagnosed in May.

Ms Mullholland said, "It's going very slowly – well, it feels slow to me, and that's probably because I've got a clock on," Ms Mullholland said.

The mother of three is lobbying Pharmac to fund new medicines Ibrance and Kadcyla.

"Advanced breast cancer is all about treatment. We need to know what's coming next and for me, Ibrance is next," she said.

"It's going to cost $7000 a month for me and my family to source that."

Ms Mullholland believes patients who need the drugs are being forced to make extreme sacrifices.

"We're seeing women having to travel to Malaysia to get the medicines they need because it's cheaper. We are seeing families uplift their whole support systems - moving to Australia, moving to the UK - because different medications are being funded. We are seeing women sell their homes [and] working two, three jobs while they’re sick."

Now, a world authority on terminal breast cancer, oncologist Dr Fatima Cardoso is supporting the cause.

Ms Cardoso said, "The medium survival of patients with this disease in New Zealand is about half of what it is in other developed countries. From those results, it is not good, and it needs clearly to be improved".

The average survival after a terminal breast cancer diagnosis here is sixteen months.

"It is, for the moment, unfortunately, an incurable disease, but it is treatable and with the correct treatment, people can live for several years with a good quality of life," she said.

Pharmac says Ibrance and Kadcyla have been recommended for funding, but for a limited group of patients.

A decision is expected by the end of the month.