The proposed change in law for cancer drugs to be administered in the public system a “game changer”

Every fortnight, Andrew Speir pays $ 1,775 to have chemotherapy drugs injected into his veins for half an hour – drugs for which he has already funded tens of thousands of dollars.

This is something the National Party hopes to see changed, proposing an amendment to the law to allow New Zealanders to have unfunded chemotherapy drugs administered at local boards of health, rather than ‘expensive private clinics’. “.

At present, cancer drugs not funded by Pharmac cannot be administered in the public system, at an additional cost to the patient.

Abigail Dougherty / Stuff

Just weeks after Denise and Phil Goodyer’s wedding, Denise was diagnosed with a golf ball-sized brain tumor. The Goodyers have turned to an unfunded drug and are spending thousands of dollars every fortnight to get the drug administered. (Video first published in February 2020)

Patients mortgage their homes, take out loans and use their savings to buy unfunded drugs, before paying “thousands” to have them administered, said National health spokesman Dr Shane Reti, who leads the charge of the proposed change.

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Speir, who lives with his parents on Auckland’s north coast, was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer in 2019, just 34 years old.

Doctors recommended that she receive Avastin – unfunded for bowel cancer – then Speir’s friends turned to Givealittle, raising $ 45,000, which covered a “lifetime supply” of the drug.

But sick pay and working 10 hours a week doesn’t give him enough money to cover administrative costs, so friends started a second Givealittle to help.

“[I’m] to rely on the kindness of others to live is a heavy thing.

Speir receives publicly and privately funded treatment for bowel cancer, relying on Givealittle and the kindness of others.

Chris McKeen / Stuff

Speir receives publicly and privately funded treatment for bowel cancer, relying on Givealittle and the kindness of others.

Speir considers himself lucky: his parents have “modest” savings that they are willing to put forward if he needs help, but “I don’t want them to have to do it” to theirs. retirement.

His Avastin is given at the same time as publicly funded chemotherapy drugs, which means Speir is already receiving treatment at a public hospital.

“If I’m already here… why can’t they double down?” He said.

He said the “removal of a single sentence” in the legislation would be “an absolute change” – especially for those who do not have the same support as him.

Speir stressed that this was a parliamentary question and not a government question.

“No matter what party it is from, it’s important that people can afford to live and be alive as long as possible.”

National Health Party spokesperson Dr Shane Reti is proposing an amendment to New Zealand's Public Health and Disability Act 2000 to allow people to receive privately funded treatment in the public system.

ROBERT KITCHIN / Tips

National Health Party spokesperson Dr Shane Reti is proposing an amendment to New Zealand’s Public Health and Disability Act 2000 to allow people to receive privately funded treatment in the public system.

Reti, who has a bill on the matter, said he heard stories from people who are just able to cover the cost of chemo, but the administration fee is the “straw that breaks the camel’s back.”

Due to changes in the process, if 61 MPs support the legislation, it could bypass the voting process and go straight to first reading in parliament.

Reti was “encouraged” by the multi-stakeholder response he had received so far.

It’s an issue close to the hearts of Auckland man Phil Goodyer whose wife Denise was diagnosed with stage 4 glioblastoma (brain tumor) shortly after their marriage in 2019.

Goodyer took lobbying for change last year, because the ongoing costs of the private administration of Avastin were a “significant burden”.

Them too, relied on a Givealittle page started with family and friends.

Denise and Phil Goodyer on their wedding day in March 2019, just weeks before Denise was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

PHOTOGRAPHY ANNA HART

Denise and Phil Goodyer on their wedding day in March 2019, just weeks before Denise was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

“What about people who can’t even get away with it?” The reality is we wouldn’t be where we are now without it, ”Goodyer said in an Thing story last year.

He was “delighted” that the issue had since been taken up by the National Party.

“There will be people on the same path as us who are simply unable to raise the money and die.”

Hearing that you have cancer and then being struck by the cost of treatment – if it’s not funded – “really hurts.”

Changing the law “would take this pain away from a lot of people,” he said.

“I hope this can pass and make a huge difference for people at such a sad time in their lives.”

Reti said Pharmac’s funding is another issue, but allowing people to receive unfunded drugs in public hospitals would be “a net inequity leveler” for around 500 Kiwis each year.

He thought it would likely require “new” money rather than “core” funding – but didn’t see it as “a lot”.

“These people put their hands in their pockets, [paying] tens of thousands of dollars, and we won’t fund them a chair? “.

However, Health Minister Andrew Little said Reti’s bill would mean that people “wealthy enough” to fund their own unfunded cancer treatments would then “take their place” in the public health system that has become a reality. need other cancer patients.

Health Minister Andrew Little said he believed the bill would create

ROBERT KITCHIN / Tips

Health Minister Andrew Little said he believed the bill would create “greater injustice” in the system.

Little said it would create further injustice in the system.

“Far from creating fairness, his bill would create greater injustice.”

The health minister said the answer to the problem was to continue to look for ways to fund more forms of cancer treatment, not allow “the richest” to pay for the drugs, and then appeal. to the public system to help them administer it, “at the expense of those” who cannot afford more expensive treatments.

“On this basis, I do not support the change,” he said. Thing.

ACT health spokeswoman Brooke van Velden said at first glance that Reti’s bill “appears to have merit” but that she would need to study it in more detail before she could say whether she supports him.

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