Cancer sufferer wants Pharmac inquiry for life-extending drugs

The AM Show 10/12/2018

A woman fighting stage 4 breast cancer is a "little shy" of the $77,000 she needs to get access to a life-extending drug.

Wiki Mulholland was diagnosed with breast cancer in May, and it quickly spread to her spine, sternum and skull. She really wants to use Ibrance, a drug manufactured by Pfizer which isn't funded by Pharmac.

In August her partner Malcolm Mulholland set up a Givealittle crowdfunding page, which had raised $57,566 as of Monday morning.

"For me to have [11 months] of treatment, it'll be $77,000," Ms Mulholland told The AM Show on Monday.

"Pfizer have come out with a compassionate scheme that says if we pay for 11 months, then we won't have to pay from that time on. So I'm working to fundraise $77,000.

"We're a little shy of that, but so thankful for all the contributions and kind thoughts."

Mr Mulholland's annoyed Australians have access to Ibrance - chemical name palbociclib - but Kiwis don't, unless they have the ability to pay for it. The couple have been lobbying to get Ibrance on the schedule, including handing two petitions to Parliament and making submissions to the health select committee.

"We're not expecting to hear any decision back from Pharmac... until May next year," said Mr Mulholland - but even then the drug won't be available.

"That's not about whether they'll fund it or not - that's about whether or not whether they want to proceed to the next stage, which is negotiations with the drug company."

They want an inquiry into how Pharmac operates, saying it's too slow to get essential medicines funded. Ibrance costs only AU$40 a month across the Tasman, but more than $6000 here.

"Pharmac's just way too slow," said Ms Mulholland. "I need to start accessing that medication as soon as I can."

Around 3000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year in New Zealand. Ms Mulholland was only 40 when she got her diagnosis.

"Because I'm only 40, mammograms weren't part of my thinking at that stage - I thought breast cancer was something for older ladies," she told The AM Show in August.

The mother-of-three says the evidence is Ibrance will give her nearly two years of "wellness", which she wants to spend cheering on kids on the sports field.

Pharmac is presently getting expert clinical advice on Ibrance and another breast cancer drug, Kadcyla (chemical name trastuzumab emtansine).

Watch the full interview above.

The AM Show with Duncan Garner, Amanda Gillies and Mark Richardson, weekdays 6-9am on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.

Newshub.