PHARMAC makes $70,000 a year cancer drug $5

By Heta Gardiner
Cancer medication advocate Malcolm Mulholland / Source - File

PHARMAC has reached a provisional agreement to fund the Breast cancer treatment drug Ibrance. The investment will mean the drug, currently priced by PHARMAC at around $70,000 a year, will now be available for cancer sufferers at the normal prescription rate, of around $5.

The funding of Ibrance has got breast cancer sufferer and long-time advocate Wiki Mulholland excited. “To get the news today it was just magic! It made everything feel worth it,” Mulholland says.  

PHARMAC’s decision to not fund the drug in the past has been controversial, with hundreds marching onto parliament to protest, and tens of thousands signing a petition to have the drug funded. In the last budget the Government gave PHARMAC a major financial boost, a big portion of which has gone towards subsidising the drug that it is estimated will be accessed by around 2000 breast cancer sufferers in the first year, and around 1000 people per year thereafter.

“If you push hard enough and you keep fronting up and doing the mahi, you can create change," Wiki Mulholland explains.

Malcolm Mulholland, who has been a major advocate beside his wife on this issue, still has concerns around how long it’s taken to get to this point. He says, “In the New Zealand context funding a drug within two years is quite quick, usually it takes four years. That just illustrates the point, that we are just too slow when it comes to funding modern medicines in New Zealand.”