This story was originally published on RNZ
An advocate group is warning that New Zealanders are dying from a common blood cancer because they’ve been denied access to medicines.
The Burden of Multiple Myeloma economics report, released by Myeloma New Zealand today, stated about 2500 people in New Zealand were living with myeloma, which affects plasma cells typically found in bone marrow.
It said there were 400 new cases and 180 deaths from the disease every year.
Myeloma New Zealand chief executive Ken Romeril said the medicines were extremely expensive, and Pharmac needed more funding to make them available.
“We’re falling behind [in the world] in the access to the new medicines, or novel medicines, particularly in relation to Australia now. They’ve got four very good drugs that are funded in Australia but we just haven’t got [them],” Dr Romeril said.
The group said policymakers should ensure New Zealanders living with myeloma receive treatment in line with international best practice.
The group wanted funded medicine available in the earlier stages of treatment, and better access for people living in rural areas.
Dr Romeril said the report also found the Māori and Pacific populations had the highest rates of the disease.
“They tended to present at a younger age as well, and also the outlook wasn’t as good as the Caucasian population.”
He said although Pharmac was considering several new therapies for the treatment of myeloma, it could take a long time for them to become a reality.
The report revealed myeloma costs the country $46.3 million a year, with the direct costs incurred by the healthcare system, and indirect costs such as loss of productivity, loss of income by affected families, an increase in taxpayer-funded benefits and loss of tax revenue to the government.