Breast Cancer Sufferer Devastated

Govt won’t fund ‘wonder drug’

Raewyn Thomson is doing everything she can to fight her terminal breast cancer diagnosis.

But the continued uphill battle to get a “wonder drug” funded is putting stress on the Hastings woman.

The latest blow was just a few days out from Christmas, when Pharmac announced it had decided not to fund the drug Thomson and many other woman so desperately need.

I-brance Palbociclib
I-brance Palbociclib

The drug, Ibrance (chemical name palbociclib) has been shown to stop the growth of breast cancer for a period of time and costs just under $7000 a month.

However, it is funded in the UK and significantly cheaper in Australia.

Pharmac, the Government’s buying agency for pharmaceuticals has recommended funding for some of the drugs. But they won’t be available for everyone. Some advanced breast cancer sufferers don’t qualify because they’re already receiving other treatments.

It’s understood Pharmac wants more advice from its clinical experts.

But the agency isn’t bound by any timeframe, and lobbyists fear it could take months or years to consider changes.

Pharmac was unable to immediately respond to a request for comment.

Breast Cancer is Very Real

Thomson was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014.

However, she only recently found it had metastasised. “It’s devastating.”

She was one of the women who presented a 32,000-signature petition to parliament.

“We were all very confident and when we got the result back it was like a smack in the face.”

Insure. Not Sure?

She is currently taking Tamoxifen but expects she will need Ibrance early next year – something which she can not afford.

“I don’t know where to turn to next apart from the Givealittle page.”

Malcolm Mulholland, along with his wife, Wiki Mulholland, who has stage four breast cancer, have petitioned for the drug to be funded. However they are lost for words after hearing the news.

Many Women Affected

He said hundreds of woman for whom Ibrance was not their first treatment, would be “adversely affected”.

“I know that the standard of care across the country is not to recommend Ibrance as a first line treatment. It is to recommend hormone treatment, which in most cases is Tamoxifen.”

Wiki, originally from Hastings, was first diagnosed with the disease on May 4, after she discovered a hard mass on her left breast.

But soon after her diagnosis, the cancer had spread through her body, meaning she was unable to have a mastectomy.

And while she started by taking Tamoxifen, and is now six rounds in to chemotherapy, Mulholland will soon require the Pharmac drug.

“The studies that have been conducted on it thus far has proven well and truly that woman who are on the drug tend to have two years of wellness and it keeps their cancer at bay on average for that period of time.”

Mulholland’s outlook is a bit brighter than some others, with a Givealittle page already at just over $58,000.

Compassionate Scheme – $77,000

To be able to access the compassionate scheme that Pfizer runs for advanced breast cancer sufferers, she needs $77,000, as it is in conjunction with another drug.

“The compassionate scheme is that you pay for 11 months of Ibrance and then the drug is free from there on in, as long as you need it.”

Earlier this year she called for an independent inquiry into Pharmac and the Health Select Committee (HSC) heard her case.

The HSC opened a briefing, requesting input from Pharmac and the Ministry of Health and has now invited submissions from Metavivors on the impact of unfunded medicines on their lives and those of their families, and these will be heard in February.

For more information and to donate to Wiki Mulholland, visit this givealittle.co.nz page.

By: Astrid Austin