Cancer patient told palliative care only option after being rejected Pharmac funding

A cancer patient was told palliative care was the only option left after she was turned down for funding by Pharmac.

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Among other things, the review will look into the time taken to assess and fund treatments and transparency of decision making. Source: 1 NEWS

By Digby Werthmuller and Ryan Boswell

The drug-buying agency was placed under an independent review today after the Prime Minister said she “was acutely aware of the concerns of Pharmac’s processes and decisions”.

Jacinda Ardern said the review will focus on whether Pharmac’s current objectives are right and if its performance can be improved.

Carlyn Reed, 25, is watching with interest after she struggled to get Pharmac’s help.

She was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma when she was 14. 

Multiple chemo treatments, radiation and stem cell transplants could not stop the cancer from reappearing.

Last year her family applied to Pharmac to fund the well-known cancer drug Keytruda, but was told that her case was “not exceptional”.

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The Prime Minister says New Zealand has a good drug purchasing system, but the challenge was to make it better. Source: 1 NEWS

Pharmac said there were no other options available, besides palliative care.

“They had just said essentially they weren't sure it was going to be a cure and there was no research to show that this was going to be a cure for me and so they didn't want to offer me the money in the chance it might not cure it,” Reed said.

Her mother Jenny Rae doesn’t understand why Keytruda isn't more readily available, when some people in Australia only have to pay $40 for a treatment.

“It's not something that we should have to mortgage our houses for or the family home and take away our securities to do that,” she said.

Instead, the family went online to fundraise for Reed’s treatment, netting over $90,000.

“I guess we've just done it ourselves and stoked with the results that it has actually worked, and hopefully it can be some sort of research to help get it funded or help other people to use it as well,” Reed said.

“Like, if my case isn't unique enough or isn't special enough for that funding then what is? You know? What meets there prerequisites of being able to have funding for their treatments?”

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One year on from starting her Keytruda treatments, Reed said life is really good.

“I think the beauty of this drug and why I'm such a big advocate for it is that I have been able to live my normal life.

"Being able to work and still exercise and do all the things a 25-year-old should do.”

She is hoping the review into Pharmac results in a fairer system.

“I would love for them to take a look at how they choose people and what are the reasons, what do they look for when they are deciding who gets that funding and to just think about other people and how it effects their lives.”