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Dr Muriel Newman

Prime Minister: It’s time to fund Keytruda

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KeytrudaThey say nothing is more certain in life than death and taxes. For governments, charged with the task of deciding how to spend our tax money, their choices can indeed mean the difference between life and death.

This was brought into sharp focus last week, when on the one hand, our Prime Minister pledged $220 million of taxpayers’ money on (futile) measures to stop the natural cycles of climate change, while on the other hand the government’s drug buying agency Pharmac turned down an application to fund Keytruda – a revolutionary new life-saving treatment for advanced melanoma – claiming, amongst other things, that they don’t have the money.

Keytruda has been described as a “breakthrough” drug since it enables the body’s own immune system to attack inoperable cancer tumours, rendering some patients cancer free in a matter of months. For a country that has the highest rate of melanoma in the world, but no state funded drug treatments except chemotherapy – which is know to be ineffective in most advanced cases – turning down approval for this drug is an appalling state of affairs.

It is particularly galling, knowing that the drug is being funded in the US, UK and Australia and is credited with saving many lives – including that of 91 year old former US President Jimmy Carter, who just this week announced that Keytruda had successfully treated the melanoma that had spread to his brain. He is now cancer free.

The government’s decision not to fund Keytruda has dire consequences for anyone but the very rich. Terminally ill melanoma sufferers and their families in New Zealand are being forced to fundraise over $10,000 every three weeks for this life saving drug. A full two-year treatment course is estimated to cost over $300,000. To have to cope with the desperate worry of raising money to save their lives on top of the dreadful health battles they face, is simply inhumane.

This week’s NZCPR Guest Commentator is Jeffrey Paterson, a 22 year old architecture graduate whose long battle with cancer has left him with stage 4 melanoma and inoperable tumours on his lungs. He has written an Open Letter to the Prime Minister explaining the reality of the dreadful situation he and other advanced melanoma patients are in, when their oncologists tell them that Keytruda could save their lives – but that the cost of treatment is $10,000 every three weeks.

I asked Jeff, to outline the detail of the horrendous health challenges that he has had to face, to ensure the Prime Minister understands just how cruel it is to burden people who are fighting for their lives with such extreme money worries as well.

“It all started when I was 16 years old. I noticed a mole on my right forearm was peeling. Due to my strong family history with Melanoma, it was checked. Consequently it was removed and the results came back as a malignant mole (positive for Melanoma). Further surgery had to take place to increase the margins to ensure that the cancer would not spread. This all happened just before my high school exams.”  You can read the details of Jeff’s harrowing journey HERE.

No New Zealander should be forced to have to raise money to stay alive, especially when a high-probability cure is available.

Melanoma is an extremely serious environmental hazard that all Kiwis face. With our fair skin, clear skies, and love of the outdoors, one in seventeen of us will develop melanoma in our lifetime. Our death rate from melanoma is four times the world average.

But while New Zealand has the highest incidence of melanoma in the world, the state-funded treatment options of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment are no longer leading edge.

The Cancer Society explains that the Pharmac-funded chemotherapy drug Dacarbazine, does not extend life in melanoma patients, and they claim that the currently available funded treatments in New Zealand lag well behind what are available in similar countries.

This is simply not good enough. If our climate is to blame for New Zealand leading the world in the incidence of melanoma, we should be leading the world in treatment options.

Cancer is the principal cause of death in New Zealand. The latest Mortality and Demographic Data shows that of the 30,277 deaths in 2012, 8,905 were from cancer. Of those, 1,628 were from lung cancer, 617 from breast cancer, 607 from prostate cancer, 354 from melanoma, and 56 from cervical cancer.

Melanoma is by far the most dangerous form of skin cancer because of its propensity to spread. If treated early, more than 90 percent of melanoma patients will still be alive five years later. But when the disease has advanced to other organs, the prognosis is poor – the median survival timeframe is about nine months, with only 15 per cent of patients surviving three years.

More than 4,500 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed in New Zealand each year. Of those, around 340 patients will be classified as stage four, with a life expectancy of around nine months. Almost a third of all melanoma deaths occur in people under the age of 50.

Keytruda (Pembrolizumab) has been called a “breakthrough” drug in the treatment of advanced melanoma because it a well-tolerated, shrinks tumours, and causes fewer side effects than existing treatments, since it encourages the body’s own immune system to fight the cancer.

Medsafe approved the drug in September and it is the first of a new class of immunotherapy drugs, called ‘anti PD-1 inhibitors’, to be registered in New Zealand. They work by making melanoma cells ‘visible’ to the immune system, unmasking tumours, which can then be attacked by the body’s natural defence mechanisms.

Cancer specialists believe these new immune therapies are the most important advance in cancer care since chemotherapies were first introduced in the middle of the last century.

72-year-old Bob Hill from Masterton would agree.

In April 2013, Bob had a tumour removed from his chest wall that was diagnosed as a secondary melanoma. Within six months it had regrown to the size of an apple and was judged incurable. He was told he would probably die within six months from incurable melanoma.

But in January last year he was accepted into a clinical trial and started receiving infusions of Keytruda. By September last year, there was no sign of the cancer lesions that had been on his lungs, liver and chest wall. The drug infusions were stopped the following month and he remains cancer-free. He feels so good that he is planning to run a half-marathon next year!

Keytruda was given “breakthrough therapy” status by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last year. The FDA has an ‘accelerated approval’ system, which recognises areas of unmet need, and grants approval for drugs pending longer term data.

In Australia, the former Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Ron Walker, has been an outspoken advocate of Keytruda. He was close to death in late 2012 with melanoma that had spread from a small lesion on his forehead, to six tumours clustered in his brain, as well as to his lungs, adrenal gland, and bones. He was accepted into a Keytruda clinical trial in January 2013, and just over eighteen months later, he was declared cancer free.

Keytruda is now available as a funded treatment for advanced cancer sufferers in Australia.

The UK has also approved Keytruda through their ‘Early Access to Medicines Scheme’, which was established earlier this year to give patients access to promising new medicines that haven’t had sufficient time to go through the full approval process.

And that’s the problem in New Zealand – while Pharmac has assessed Keytruda and found that it should be funded for the treatment of “metastatic or unresectable stage lll or lV melanoma”, they have given it a low priority status for funding, namely because of the high cost of the drug – and the fact that the trials haven’t been going long enough to satisfy their standard survival benefit test. A follow up appraisal is scheduled for February.

While Pharmac’s initial finding indicates that Keytruda is successfully shrinking tumours for two thirds of advanced melanoma patients, under their current drug assessment model, where a long-term survival benefit is required before a drug can be approved, no new treatments will meet the criteria for funding until years after they have been found to be successfully saving lives in other countries where early access schemes have been established.

New Zealand is now seriously out of step with other advanced nations, putting our patients at a serious disadvantage.

This is completely unacceptable.

The Pharmaceutical Management Agency, or Pharmac, was established in 1993 as a Crown entity to decide, on behalf of District Health Boards, which medicines and pharmaceutical products should be subsidised for use in the community and public hospitals. Their aim is to get the best health outcomes possible from the almost $800 million in Government funding that is available (put that into the context of the $220m just committed to global warming!).

But in light of a raft of expected new innovations in health care treatment, either Pharmac will have to change the way it operates, or the government will need to step in and introduce a parallel early access to medicines scheme like they have in the UK, to dovetail in with Pharmac and deal with advanced new drugs.

As Melanoma New Zealand Board Member Dr Rosalie Fisher stated, in response to the decision by Pharmac not to prioritise funding for Keytruda, “The latest clinical trial evidence tells us that after two years, 60 percent of Keytruda patients are still alive. The median survival for an advanced melanoma patient is 8-9 months so this is clearly a major advance on the existing treatment. It is particularly frustrating and perplexing that this decision could be made in a nation with the highest melanoma rates in the world and it leaves our patients without access to any effective treatments.”

One of the recognised problems with new drugs like Keytruda is that they are extremely expensive. Patients, who are having to fund the drug themselves to save their lives, need to find hundreds of thousands of dollars. The inequity this introduces into the health system is painfully obvious and totally unacceptable – while patients with money or strong family support have a chance of funding their treatment privately, those without are dying.

Asked why the price of Keytruda is so high, the supplier Merck, Sharp & Dohme has explained that as a biologic drug, not only is the manufacturing process more expensive than for other drug types, but the costs of research and development, and clinical trials, has been huge – an estimated $4 billion in the last financial year alone.

The reality is however, that while the cost to individual patients is extremely high, Pharmac will be able to negotiate a significant discount, knowing that as time goes by, prices will reduce further as the scale of production increases and more competitors enter the market.

At present, however, without some intervention from our political leaders, a drug considered by some cancer specialists to be the greatest advance in melanoma treatment since chemotherapy was developed, is unlikely to receive state funding.

With almost one person dying of advanced melanoma each day in New Zealand, the Prime Minister, now needs to step up.

Not later, but now.

Time is of the essence.

I am calling on the Prime Minister to make an announcement to fund Keytruda before Christmas.

If he can find $200 million to spend on solar panels for Pacific Island countries, surely he can find $30 million to ensure that leading-edge melanoma treatment is available to New Zealanders like Jeff Paterson, who are literally facing the fight of their lives and have already suffered more than most, so they can have a decent Christmas and focus on getting well.


Should the melanoma drug Keytruda be state funded

Vote x 120

 *Poll comments are posted below.


*All NZCPR poll results can be seen in the Archive.

Click to view x 120


Yes, but not at the expense of other life-saving drugs/medicines!! Dave
Forget the climate change subsidies, fund helping kiwis! Hilary
In 2010 recent Burmese arrival in Otago treated for drug-resistant TB at a cost of $10,000 per month. Something wrong when Kiwis are denied life-saving Melanoma drugs due to cost. June
Save the money by ignoring the climate change scandalous waste of public funds. John
I had a melanoma surgically removed a couple of years ago. I have just received a further diagnosis of another melanoma and an urgent appointment for an operation to remove this one. I hope they are in time or I could be added to the list of those hoping to access Keytruda. Funding Keytruda would have been such a good choice for the $26 million that has been wasted on the stupid flag referendum. If it’s good enough for UK and Australia, why not us. Chris
Come on John, get your countries priorities sorted out first before ‘pie in the sky’ stuff. Helen
Keytruda drug state funded? Only for the Whanau Ora projects of course, along with all of the other racial appeasements. Are you listening, Mr Finlayson? Or does the distant echo of the National Party’s claim to be the “champions of equal rights” (choke) still ring naggingly in your ears? Mitch
But should be seriously considered. Gregory
Any drug which promises to cure a cancer should be funded to the hilt!! Jim
There are always choices to be made. Keytruda is NOT a “high-probability cure. David
YES. Steven
It is a National disgrace it is not funded.. Don
It works – make it a priority. Siphon a few million offf the Waitangi gravy train and get it ASAP. Lives are at stake here! Scott
Yes, fund it. A no brainer. Neil
Research drugs are expensive to develop. National and ACT should have supported Winston”s Bill for requiring New NZers under the Family Reunion Progamme to be required to have medical insurance for their first 10 years in N;Z;,that would fund Keytruda for us all. Geoffrey
…and PHARMAC need more money. Gfn
AS yet, there is insufficient evidence that the results justify the expense; nor is there any guarantee that the side effects are known. Remember Thalidomide ! Bob
Of course it should be funded and it automatically would be if tax payers money was not wasted on other schemes or dubious issues. Alan
Hundreds of $millions to donated to worthless descendants of Maori whose forefathers greatest achievement was inventing a pointed stick [spear] . Many more $millions wasted on finding ways to reduce harmless methane emissions. Another $27million wasted on changing the national flag, because the P.M. hates anything with Christian connections, & so the list goes on. This morally bankrupt government responds only to minority pressure groups. We should all register on the racist Maori roll for the next election.. A.G.R.
This is a no brainer. Stop wasting money on race based schemes and maintain the health and well being of all kiwis. Peter
To buy this outrageously priced drug is just a rip off……there is a much better way, it is already here in NZ and Muriel will have the details. She will also have the research that backs it all up. Having examined all this Muriel may decide to make details available that will save peoples lives. Ronmac
Govt needs to carefully consider where they are spending taxpayers money Pam
It’s obvious to all but the beaurocrats. Brian
My 56 yr old Son is a stage 4 Melanoma patient and is desperately needing Keytruda treatment. Please, please, Pharmac, change your mind. Marie
The funding of ‘breakthrough’ medicines should be free of any political interference. Rather the current Pharmac medicine assessment model needs to be revisited urgently to at least provide a pathway for an accelerated funding provision process whether that be partially or fully in the initial stage. The $27 MM for flag consideration and $200 MM for climate change would be far better channelled to VOTE HEALTH. Tony
Absolutely, instead of spending money to stop climate change, which can’t be done, put the money needed into funding this amazing drug for those with melanoma. Carolyn
Definitely as money can be waisted on other stupid things. Clark
Whilst answering “Yes” to the question, the decision on whether or not to recommend funding should be left to those with clinical expertise, not politicians. Expenditure comparisons have little validity or relevance. Peter
If funding could be diverted from the useless Maori language or climate change propaganda then yes, otherwise leave it to Pharmac. Monica
Get with the play NZ. People are dying!!!!! At least commit to funding it instantly for 2 years to give Pharmac time to do their deals or pick their noses or whatever they are up to. Laura
Absolutely. What a waste of frivolous millions on a flag change when this money could be so better used for the health of kiwis. Fiona
This National Government has done some really good things, but cancel it all out with stupid things like not funding this drug, Spending $26 million on the flag, $220 million on trying to change the climate, and handing the greedy Maoris over 2 billion dollars in total this year, I’m just wondering if Winston Peters would carry on like this. Athol
Decision should be left to clinicians advising Pharmac. Graham
Most definitely! It is UNBELIEVEABLE that we have changed from a proudly CARING society to what this government values to day.As a retired health professional I hang my head in shame. Shazza
My daughter (has both NZ & Aust citizenship) started Keytruda treatment 3 months ago in Brisbane. Keytruda is state funded and as such gives everyone a chance at life. NZ needs to cut the Treaty settlement wastage, the absolute reckless waste of funds on the global warming con and start looking after ALL Kiwis. The reverse-apartheid and racialism in NZ is beyond belief. Now water of all things is under threat. Is NZ being managed by complete MUPPETS. This is a disaster on a monumental scale!! I have voted National all my life…NEVER AGAIN. Key & co are as weak as water…spineless and pathetic!! NZ’rs are deluded in thinking that we have a 1st world health system. From first hand experience Drs in Aust laugh at the long forgotten and out-of-date drugs Kiwis are being dished up. Pharmac needs to get real and forget about penny pinching when making decisions on life saving drugs. It is abundantly clear to anyone with half an ounce of intelligence that the racial drain on the finances of the country are directly attributable to a very porr and out-of-date health system. Another advancement NZ will not have and probably won’t have for a number of years is Gamma Knife treatment utilising Gamma radiation in the destruction of brain metastisies. Current radiation treatment causes permanent damage to cognitive skills and motor skills. Then again, I guess it is more important to appease Maori demands and United Nations con. WAKE UP NZ!!! You are deluded!! Start looking after the people that made the country what it is. Graeme
Spending money on Keytruda would be better than wasting it on the Flag and various other Goverment grants. Peter
Keytruda should absolutely be state funded. Jeffrey
Article is too emotive to be objective. There are many drugs Pharmac would like to fund. If this was funded how many other people would have to go without their necessary drug. Comparing to US. UK & OZ is disingenuous. Their economies of scalr far outweigh NZ. Private health insurance should be encouraged rather…. John
If you didn’t keep settling perpetually renewable full and final land claims there would be plenty of money to fund this so please get your priories right. When will that end? Never? Thank you. Anne
A life is more important than a solar panel. John
Definite need! Jim
Of course it should!! $26 million on changing a flag and another $220 million on climate change? No contest. Chris
How is it that NZ must keep reinventing the wheel when it comes to these things?? Is NZ so far ahead of the rest of the world that we cannot trust any other nation in regard to testing drugs ????? Den
Of course it should if it has been proved to work the government is to quick to give money away to other countries WHAT about us the tax payers. Peter
I Have already beaten Lymphoma and I am predisposed to melanoma. Keytruda must be funded ahead of vanity projects like the stupid flag change. John
To waste money on changing the Flag and expensive signs on Government buildings not to mention Solar Panels and the list goes on’ What price the lives of the ‘ ORDINARY’ New Zealander who could be helped to live a long and healthy life. Laurel
Money can be found for troops doing USA dirty work so lets save some for home. John
I wonder what john Key would do if one of his children was affected by a melanoma if he was not a multimillionaire. The government should cut out just a little bit of the costly bureaucratic waste and this new drug could be easily funded. After all they spend $2800 per second. Colin
How much is a human life worth? money can be replaced but a human life sadly not Theodorus
It must absolutely be available for all who need it. Other treatments for skin cancers should also be covered by Pharmac – I have extensive treatment every 6mths for on-going cancers and the Medical Insurance won’t cover a lot of it because of Pharmac regulations. Being a `red-head’ with fair skin, the damage is fairly extensive. Am in early 70’s and hope I never get melanoma as that would be a death sentence for me, as it is for so many of our NZers. Elayne
Spending Health Budget Wisely. Greg
Yes -when it reaches criteria to be funded and/or extra money is made available to fund medicines considered effective by Pharmac. It is essential that Pharmac remains independent from political pressure, and is not swayed by anecdotal evidence such as personal appeals and isolated cure cases.. Keith
Leave Pharmac alone Political interference should not occur. Brian
With such a high success cure rate, NZ should fund Keytruda. Jill
Peoples health more important than changing the flag. Edward
Pharmac’s decision criteria are sound – remember Herceptin!! Peter
If this moronic government can see fit to spending $27m on two unwanted and completely unnecessary flag referendums, it is morally obliged to ensure that Pharmac has access to sufficient funds to finance Keytruda therapy for melanoma sufferers. Unlike the ridiculous flag issue, this is a matter of life or death for those directly affected. Les
The Government is financing far less important things e.g .changing the flag. Richard
If Key can have an ego trip spending millions on a flag change and costing millions more for the country to change if a new flag is chosen he can fund Keytruda. Murray
Not all very expensive medicines can be state funded, but given the numbers of patients with melanoma in NZ making keytruda available to melanoma patients needs to have immediate government action. John
There is already a lot of maori decendent funding, why not this one. It might save a life or two. While maori funding only saves the rich. Peter
Chemotherapy is ineffective with melanoma so that I am being offered no state funded treatment. The treatment has been proven and funded in other jurisdictions. I am unable to fund the treatment myself because of the extremely high cost so am looking to limited life expectancy. The government has a responsibility to provide additional funding if Pharmac do not presently unable to fund it. John
The Keytruda drug must be state funded to help all of those persons who would gain a cancer cure from its use. However even more money must be found to improve the Health System. I have been diagnosed with bowl cancer. I have also been told that my heart will not stand the stress of the operation because I have a faulty heart valve. So now I am waiting for heart surgery. My experience with the DHB is that the doctors are doing their best to treat all patients but the lack of funding slows everything down. If this National Government deliberately chooses to ration money to the health service then we must all work to force a change of Government. Ernest
WIth our melanoma rate it’s a no brainer – ABSOLUTELY! Maddi
Pharmac does need more funding from Govt. not only for Keytruda the Govt .refused Pharmac’s recent request , Why ? Hugh
Yes. Andy
Just do it. Barb
Most definitely. Pam
It would only take one MP to get Melanoma and it would be free. John
To stop innocent and poorer people dying. David
No big deal after the wastage on promotion of a new flag. John
We have wasted a lot of money on the flag that nobody wants to change. It would be better to put money into health and save some lives. WHICH IS MORE IMPORTANT, PEOPLE OR FLAGS. Bryan
MoH should not discriminate on grounds of cost alone. Graeme
Yes absolutely. Couldn’t agree more with your comment “If the government can waste $200 million on naturally occurring climate change it can fund Keytruda”. Supporting the health of New Zealanders is the number one priority of government. Bruce
If it is there, we should have it, to save our lives. Helen
Priorities need to be set, finish the treaty handout deals, equality for all, unity for the nation. Wayne
Absolutely YES, no doubt…what after spending $26 million on the stupid flag change, makes me wonder where the brain is sitting…I can’t believe he could state that new drugs are coming along all the time, yes but it can take many years for them to be completely researched and approved whilst has passed so many tests…dumb and dumber ..I guess the words would be…that’s without all the other frivolous spending. Maybe Len Brown could come up with the money from us ratepayers as the two are so chummy, and we need the rates to go up…thank goodness he’s going, perhaps that spending could be curbed too…you can see I am mad about this sort of decision. I hope to goodness I never need it. Audrey
Yes! While funds are found for many frivolous purposes, surely NZ can find life-saving funds to at least keep up with Australia, UK & The USA. Heather
If it saves lives it should be funded. You can’t buy a life back once it has gone. Vernon
The cost of the drug will easily pay for itself with less duck shoving around with ineffective treatments that can stretch over a number of years before the patient finally succumbs. John
My compassionate nature says yes, much more benefit than than dollars frittered on flags and fairy stories like climate change. Anthony
Stop wasting money on racially biased demands. Spend the money on all New Zealanders. Rick
The wastage of funds on flag issues and Maoris fresh water when voters perish illustrates the Politician we have today, influenced by power. Warren
If the National Party can spend 22 Million of the Tax payers money on useless flag surely they can fund the new cancer saving drug for the citizens of New Zealand. Wayne
Absolutely definitely!!! State funding pre Xmas please!! Caroline
John Keyes turns down common sense for nonsense. Tax these iwi trusts, but no he much prefers to put public servant in their building and pay them rent., that`s Nationals version of private enterprise;. We are fortunate for authors like Lewis Carol with his Alice in Wonderland, their mad hatters tea party, replicated in our building in Wellington called the Bee hive.. What with Nick Smith the minister of segregation & racialism. Keep it up Wellington. Robert
This drug like many others offered by the US and EU Pharma Corporations is simply overpriced and those corporations are gouging us. Why not simply declare an abolishion on copyright/patent/branding in all medical preparations for human use and manufacture what we need economically for use within our own borders, I suspect India has already done this. Surely this is the most humanitarian way to provide for our own community needs. Richard
Why not! So many others are receiving ‘benefits’ for much lesser good – many for nebulous reasons. Stuart
I have watched a good friend die a hedious death at the age of 62. Very sad and traumatic to his family. Gail
If our rate of melanoma is 2nd in the world funding would be sensible. Have our cancer researchers anything in the pipe line which will be able to aid this drug in the future and maybe take over from it??? Elizabeth
Simply yes! Think of the millions of dollars frittered away on non-essential and feel-good ideas at home and overseas. And the problems of the needy people at home. And of course “The Flag” total waste of probably at least $50m by the time all the emblems and official flages and stationery are updated.. Ron
Fund Keytruda now!!! It is a much more important priority than pacific solar panels, high wages for government employees to do nothing but frustrate and bleed private citizens, generous funding for foreign entities for whatever nonsense they dream up. Look after our own people first. for Gods sake! That is what you are payed to do. Dianna
And also the new blood thinner Xarelto (rivaroxaban) in place of warforin. I tablet daily and no blood tests. Saves costs for the patients having to have blood tests and cost in doing the testing. Win win. S
We could fund it from the savings made by doing away with the $600m being wasted on promoting the Maori language. Terry
From flag referendum allocation!! Andrew
Yes. And other funding such as that given to Pacific Islands, referendum on the flag (which most NZers are against changing) and the millions dished out to bullshit claims by Maoris should all cease. It would be easily affordable and Keytruda would be a worthwhile cause if the above issues were addressed. Des
Of course it should. They can find money to wast on unnecessary things like cycle ways, Iwi deals, Waitangi Tribunals etc and the like,. this would be chicken feed in comparison. Laurence
Definitely. If somebody less fortunate than myself tripped, I would give him a hand back onto his feet. That is what society is about. Human life, at least in this country, is priceless. Kevan
Although I have some reservations when we consider all the other demands on Pharmac. David
The government has failed to cut the costs of running government as promised. Social Security has now reached 28 billion. No extra funding required if we scrap the unnecessary ministries and wastage such as the flag referendum. The rationale for funding Keytruda is absolute! David
This young man and all like him deserve life if it is in our hands to support it. What price does the Prime Minister put on kiwi lives? Judith
Why not fund these drugs, after all there always seems to be plenty of money for paying bogus maori claims, they could take the millions spent on promoting the maori language each year and do something useful with it, instead of wasting it all on a dead language that has no use to anyone unless you work for WINZ or Corrections. Stevo
If we can spend $27 million on the flag debate we can afford to save the lives of our citizens. Barry
No! The unhealth system needs to stop wasting our resources on making drug companies huge profits and focus on cancer prevention. The information and means are available but because it can’t be patented and sold for outrageous profits, it is actively suppressed by big pharma in collusion with many governments. Nutritional defeciencies leading to physiological imbalances in the body are the major contributing factor to any and all cancers. Until the cause is dealt with, we will continue to pour ever growing resources into the proverbial ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. The current taxpayer funded unhealth system could well be the living definition of insanity. Robert
Keytruda is being funded in the US, UK and Australia and is credited with saving many lives – so why aren’t we following them. New Zealand has a high rate of melanoma – Keytruda is found to be successful in treating this. Why is this government allowing its people to die when there is a known cure? Why is the government spending millions on a flag no one wants to change when people are dying when they don’t have to? Kerin
Consider the waste of taxpayer money on the Waitangi Tribunal,”global warming”, the national flag, to name a few,and John Key can’t find money to save lives. Pathetic. Malcolm
The question I would ask you is why ACT support National if he did not have their support he may be a bit more sensible. John
$26 million on the flag, $600 million on a dead language and $220 on climate change. The list goes on and on. But adequate funding for pharmac and essential infrastructure – that’s too difficult, doesn’t attract headlines because that’s an everyday government function and doesn’t buy political allies!! Alan
Successive governments do not seem not to understand that their first priority is to its citizens, Of course this breakthrough drug should be available to all New Zealanders, it is so frustrating having to watch these people spend our money on things that have little bearing on our lives. Robert
NZ health should come before 200,000000 for solar panels for Pacific Islands. Ross
This drug would be available if melanoma hit an MPs family. Time to support NZers first, stop grandstanding on the world stage, AND STOP WASTING OUR TAXES ON FLAGS! CLIMATE CHANGE (which has been happening since time began). Come on Key, show us some spine and leadership. Carolyn
We should set up a trial period of 2 years and fund the drug over that period. After an evaluation, we could then make the right decision on whether or not to fund. Keith
There are so many people who could benefit from this drug. It is time Government stopped playing God over the population. Rog
Pharmac must continue to fund drugs which do good for the greatest number of people. Key triad does not yet meet the necessary statistical level required. Sad and tough but realistic. Mo
Not really sure. David
What gives if we fund this drug? Karl
—-but only if it can be done by diverting funding from current wasteful expenditure rather than increasing taxes. Eg. don’t fund any elective, gender re-assignment surgery. Stop mucking about with futile Climate Change expenditure in NZ, futile flag referendum, MP’s perks (including spouses) after leaving office etc, etc. The list is long, Geoff
Definitely. Cherryl
Typical of a narrow minded government and to throw money in the path of an oncoming bus($220m to global warming) and to forget the` elephant in the room’ in regards to melanoma issues. Malcolm
If this proceeds the score is narcissism 1, democracy 0. This is a good example of the DOG (Delusions Of Grandeur) Syndrome. Barry
$200M more welfare for pacific nations so that they can sit around longer – Enough Fund the drug NOW Charity begins at home! Colin
Yes, step up John Key. Richard
I feel strongly that Keytruda should state funded. It is in our interest as a nation to give these people the best chance of survival available. I think a young man like Jeff will repay us by contributing to society if he has the years available to him. Dee
Common sense. Lance
Of course life is worth more than a few carbons. Graeme
Aside from all of the money wasted on ‘The Flag’ issue there are many other instances of poor decision making regards funding this issue being yet another one. Beryl
Absolutely. Trevor
A proven cancer treatment vs. unproven climate change. Disgusting. Cliff
Time the PM started acting for New Zealanders first rather than throwing our money at other countries so he looks good on the world stage. This drug seems to be particularly effective – he must ensure NZ’ers get the treatment they deserve. Gail
Yes, of course Keytruda should be state funded. It is appalling to ask people to pay for it themselves. Andrew
The money Key is wasting on climate change is disgraceful. All of that money should have gone into the Pharmac budget so New Zealanders can have access to better medicines across the board. Graham
It is ridiculous to ask people who are suffering to have to stump up with such huge amounts of money. There should be a compassionate fund available to help in such cases. And yes, advanced melanoma treatments should all be state funded. Judith
The Pharmac model needs to be changed to accommodate new drugs otherwise Kiwis will always miss out. Craig
Yes, the PM needs to announce state funding before Christmas. James