“More protest action is on the cards if this government isn’t prepared to give Pharmac more money “, said mother of three Joy Wilkie of Ngati Tarawhai and Ngai Te Rangi descent.
She is one of many who suffer from multiple myeloma, a rare type of blood cancer, that weakens the immune system, and compromises the functioning of the bone marrow.
“There’s no cure for this type of cancer”, said Joy. “I’m in remission right now, so I was able to attend the protest, and be an advocate for those who couldn’t make it.”, she said.
The march held recently in Wellington, was organised by Dr Ken Romeril, a haemotologist who has over 40 years experience, specialising in multiple myeloma. The large crowd also included representatives from the medical profession.
“ Our doctors are as frustrated as we are”, said Joy, “ and I believe they want to offer their patients the best treatment , but they’re limited because Pharmac needs more resources, to fund other types of medication that could extend the quality of life for cancer patients “, said Joy.
“We are the only country in the OECD that I’m aware of that doesn’t fund these drugs, yet they have been internationally tested and approved to the highest standard in other countries.”
Joy believes the whole health system needs to be well funded so organisations such as Pharmac have the necessary research capability, and resources,to screen and introduce new forms of cancer treatments.
“Why is it that our government can cough up millions of dollars to fund national events, yet many patients living with cancer in our own country,have to pay huge amounts of money to get drugs imported from overseas, just to stay alive! It seems if you are a wealthy New Zealander like a Parliamentarian is, you would have the opportunity to self-fund your own care,but for most kiwis that’s just not an option.”, said Joy.
Frustrated with the slow progress to get more funding to support cancer sufferers, Joy is determined to be involved in advocating for government policy changes as long as she remains well.
“These new cancer treatments could make such a positive difference to sufferers, and their families, and I believe most New Zealanders who have family members suffering from some form of cancer, would agree”.
Further protest action, and marches are being planned for the near future.