Blood cancer patients advocate pleads for funding for new treatments

Patient advocacy group Myeloma New Zealand has joined forces with other patient groups to petition Parliament to approve funding for state-of-the-art cancer treatments for New Zealanders.

Myeloma NZ is petitioning for funding for a suite of six life-extending treatments for multiple myeloma, a deadly, complex blood cancer of malignant plasma cells which is now the second fastest growing blood cancer in the world.

Presenting the petition at Parliament today to NZ First MP Jenny Marcroft, haematologist and chief executive of Myeloma NZ Trust Dr Ken Romeril said there have been huge advances in myeloma treatment internationally, but no new anti-myeloma medicines have been funded in NZ in the last 5 years.

The group is asking for daratumumab, carfilzomib, lenalidomide (for maintenance), pomalidomide, elotuzumab and ixazomib.

“It might sound ambitious to ask for six treatments to be funded, but this is the nature of this cancer: it’s a highly individual disease, and having this range of medicines available would provide clinicians with the ability to personalise treatment for patients, as early as possible in the disease. This is indisputably the way forward in myeloma treatment, is in line with international best practice, and is bringing significant improvements in quality of life and survival. And this is what we want for our patients.

“There are many myeloma patients in New Zealand who have simply run out of treatment options, and whose very survival is in the balance. But sadly, we now have a two-tier health system, where those who can afford to self-fund or move overseas to get the best treatment do so, while the less and least well-off are left to suffer and die prematurely,” said Dr Romeril.

“Many countries less wealthy than New Zealand have been able to afford these treatments, and here’s where we stand in terms of health priorities:

• NZ spends $199 per person per year on medicines, compared to the
2016 OECD average of $951

• NZ spends only 5% of its health budget on medicines; the OECD
average is 14%

• NZ spends 0.34% of its GDP on medicines; the OECD average is 1.4% of GDP

• NZ consistently ranks 19th or last out of 20 OECD countries in access to new medicines.” (Figures compiled by Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition)

The Myeloma NZ petition has 2115 signatories.