Petition launched to halt defunding of child cancer medicines

By Stefan Dimitrof

New Zealand leads the world in five-year survival rates for children with cancer.

But a potential change in how children’s cancer medicines are funded is alarming patient advocates, who suspect paediatric oncology patients will miss out.

Dr Malcolm Mulholland (Ngāti Kahungunu) has started a petition to be sent to Parliament protesting the change.

He says Pharmac may be taking away the provision that protects the ability of children to gain access to particular medicines.

Mulholland thinks Pharmac has three options to consider with the upcoming changes, firstly taking the provision away so that children that need cancer medicines won’t have access.

Another option could be that Pharmac could fund the disease no matter the disease, cancer or chronic illness they are suffering from.

The final option is the status quo stays the same allowing children with cancer to access medicines and children with chronic illnesses or rare diseases won’t be able to gain access to medicines.

“I’m really struggling to think of another country where a government agency has openly said that we are thinking of depriving children with cancer of medicines.”

Mulholland says he wants to see some leadership from the top to greet petitioners on December t14 when they present the petition to Parliament - and say that they aren’t removing medicines for paediatric oncology.

“That would be the ultimate outcome as well as saying that they will create some type of mechanism whereby they create a level playing field for children with a rare disorder and their medicine to also be funded.”

Mulholland says he would have liked to have seen funding for medicines for rare disorders raised to the same level of support children with cancer have.

But, because of the funding problem Pharmac is having, it is likely to remove funding from paediatric oncology to make it fair for children with rare disorders not getting medicines, he says