Non-smoker battling lung cancer

Pharmac under fire over lack of funding.

Pharmac under fire over lack of funding.

FIGHTING FOR ALL CANCER PATIENTS: Julie Robinson is campaigning for a review of Pharmac and more funding of cancer drugs. She needs expensive treatment through the drug Keytruda, which is not publicly funded. A givealittle page has been set up to raise the $150,000 needed for her first year of treatment. Go to the givealittle website and type Julie Robinson into search at the top of the page. Picture by Paul Rickard

Julie Robinson has never been a smoker.

She briefly experimented in her youth but quickly decided she didn’t like it.

Last week she started chemotherapy after being diagnosed with lung cancer in December.

“People say to me, ‘you don’t smoke’,” she told The Gisborne Herald.

Lung cancer — the biggest cancer killer in New Zealand — is increasing among non-smokers.

It is also the country’s most poorly-funded cancer treatment, says Julie, who is trying to raise $150,000 for her first year of treatment with ‘‘wonder drug’’ Keytruda.

Julie was fascinated and motivated after watching a television interview with Wiki and Malcolm Muholland of collective group Patient Voice Aotearoa.

The organisation lobbies ‘‘for equal access to world-class medical care across New Zealand’’.

Wiki, who has advanced breast cancer, is in the same situation as Julie. Both desperately need drugs that are not publicly funded in New Zealand.

She contacted the Mullhollands, who asked her to support them at Patient Voice Aotearoa (East Coast).

Julie agreed and is now the second Gisborne resident after Alain Jorion to publicly campaign for Pharmac to fund Keytruda.

Her own lung cancer is a rare form of the disease.

“So there’s not a lot of information or a standard treatment plan. It’s generally resistant to chemotherapy.”

Julie says she needs immunotherapy, which in her case means Keytruda.

The drug is given by infusion in hospital and is designed to enable a person’s immune system to target and destroy cancer cells.

The $150,000 bill covers 10 treatments in the first year and Julie has launched a givealittle page asking for public support.

If the drugs shows evidence of success, the drug company will fund two more years of treatment.

“The Government gives nothing.”

Adds her voice to the call for Pharmac review

Keytruda is fully funded (under special authority criteria) in New Zealand only for melanoma patients.

It is funded for lung cancer in 42 other countries worldwide, including Romania, Greece and Lebanon.

“According to Malcolm (Muholland), New Zealand is at the bottom for cancer funding,’’ says Julie.

Patient Voice Aotearoa is also calling for a review of Pharmac — the New Zealand crown entity that decides, on behalf of district health boards, which medicines and pharmaceutical products are subsidised for use in the community and public hospitals.

“It was formed 25 years ago but has never been reviewed,’’ said Julie.

“The advances in cancer treatment in the last five years have been greater than in the previous 20.

“But there has still been no review into Pharmac.

“What other government agencies haven’t been reviewed in the last 25 years or since their inception?

“Before I got diagnosed, I had no idea of all of this. I want to raise awareness that there’s an issue here.”

Patient Voice Aotearoa has called for an inquiry into Pharmac by the Health Select Committee and the Maori Affairs Select Committee.

The Maori Affairs Select Committee has indicated its support.

The New Zealand health system should be able to do better than this, says Julie.

”But how do we know when there’s been no review?”

People are welcome to join Patient Voice Aotearoa (East Coast), which can be contacted through Facebook.

Julie Robinson has never been a smoker.

She briefly experimented in her youth but quickly decided she didn’t like it.

Last week she started chemotherapy after being diagnosed with lung cancer in December.

“People say to me, ‘you don’t smoke’,” she told The Gisborne Herald.

Lung cancer — the biggest cancer killer in New Zealand — is increasing among non-smokers.

It is also the country’s most poorly-funded cancer treatment, says Julie, who is trying to raise $150,000 for her first year of treatment with ‘‘wonder drug’’ Keytruda.

Julie was fascinated and motivated after watching a television interview with Wiki and Malcolm Muholland of collective group Patient Voice Aotearoa.

The organisation lobbies ‘‘for equal access to world-class medical care across New Zealand’’.

Wiki, who has advanced breast cancer, is in the same situation as Julie. Both desperately need drugs that are not publicly funded in New Zealand.

She contacted the Mullhollands, who asked her to support them at Patient Voice Aotearoa (East Coast).

Julie agreed and is now the second Gisborne resident after Alain Jorion to publicly campaign for Pharmac to fund Keytruda.

Her own lung cancer is a rare form of the disease.

“So there’s not a lot of information or a standard treatment plan. It’s generally resistant to chemotherapy.”

Julie says she needs immunotherapy, which in her case means Keytruda.

The drug is given by infusion in hospital and is designed to enable a person’s immune system to target and destroy cancer cells.

The $150,000 bill covers 10 treatments in the first year and Julie has launched a givealittle page asking for public support.

If the drugs shows evidence of success, the drug company will fund two more years of treatment.

“The Government gives nothing.”

Adds her voice to the call for Pharmac review

Keytruda is fully funded (under special authority criteria) in New Zealand only for melanoma patients.

It is funded for lung cancer in 42 other countries worldwide, including Romania, Greece and Lebanon.

“According to Malcolm (Muholland), New Zealand is at the bottom for cancer funding,’’ says Julie.

Patient Voice Aotearoa is also calling for a review of Pharmac — the New Zealand crown entity that decides, on behalf of district health boards, which medicines and pharmaceutical products are subsidised for use in the community and public hospitals.

“It was formed 25 years ago but has never been reviewed,’’ said Julie.

“The advances in cancer treatment in the last five years have been greater than in the previous 20.

“But there has still been no review into Pharmac.

“What other government agencies haven’t been reviewed in the last 25 years or since their inception?

“Before I got diagnosed, I had no idea of all of this. I want to raise awareness that there’s an issue here.”

Patient Voice Aotearoa has called for an inquiry into Pharmac by the Health Select Committee and the Maori Affairs Select Committee.

The Maori Affairs Select Committee has indicated its support.

The New Zealand health system should be able to do better than this, says Julie.

”But how do we know when there’s been no review?”

People are welcome to join Patient Voice Aotearoa (East Coast), which can be contacted through Facebook.

Your email address will not be published. Comments will display after being approved by a staff member. Comments may be edited for clarity.

Winston Moreton - 26 days ago
"The Government gives nothing." Because Vote Health is funded by taxation, it competes with teachers and social security benefits, including Muldoon's old-age pension scheme. If the advice of Sir Owen Woodhouse, whose report recommendations formed the basis of the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC), was followed, the $40 billion invested to meet the costs of injury claims could be transferred to hospitals.
$40 billion. And ACC spends a fortune denying claims which would be saved if the funds went into the health system.

Megan Kelso - 25 days ago
Why do people in Julie's situation have to beg and grovel for a drug that will probably keep her alive? When I see what the Government is doing with money and people have to beg to stay alive - for God's sake, bring Pharmac into the 21st century. Do they think people want to take these drugs? I don't think so. What are we, a Third World country? Isn't it about time those in Parliament started looking after our people, or at least give me a bloody good reason why people have to fight for funding for medication that means the difference between life and death. My heart goes out to Julie and others in her situation.

Georgina, Palmerston North - 25 days ago
It's all about money. They make more money keeping us sick than funding a cure. Pharmac is about the money.

Poll

  • Voting please wait...
    Your vote has been cast. Reloading page...
    Should the Gisborne District Council consider easing restrictions around freedom camping?​