Terminally ill dad saves more than $200k bringing in cancer drugs from India

A Kiwi dad who’s dying of lung cancer has been bypassing the Pharmac system to get cheap pharmaceuticals directly from India – and says thousands of other patients could do the same.

Baden Ngan Kee was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer – despite having never smoked – in 2016. By October last year the cancer had spread to his brain.

His doctor suggested three cancer-fighting drugs that could extend his life, including one targeted therapy. But none were funded by Pharmac, the Government’s drug-buying agency, so they would cost him a prohibitive $23,000 a month.

Desperate for more time with his wife Katherine and their three young children, Ngan Kee turned to Google.

“When you’re terminal, with a young family, time is everything,” he said. “My mission is to build memories for my kids.”

The Remuera 54-year-old found the brand-name drugs were available cheaply in India, and generic versions would cost even less.

India is lax about patent laws and has a flourishing generic drug industry, which keeps prices low. All three drugs would cost Ngan Kee less than $1300 per month.

He turned to New Zealand’s Indian community, who pointed him to a trusted oncologist in India. Ngan Kee emailed the doctor his medical records, and was prescribed the required drugs.

Kiwi Indian contacts brought the medicines back, along with prescriptions from New Zealand and India and a doctor’s letter of compassion. They declared the pharmaceuticals at Customs, and were allowed through.

Ngan Kee has also had the drugs posted directly to a Kiwi pharmacist willing to dispense them.