Terminally ill Kiwi mum forced to pay nearly $6500 a month for unfunded drugs for her lung cancer


Imagine knowing that your life could be prolonged by a wonder drug that you simply can't afford.

It's Pharmac's job to fund those drugs for New Zealanders - they have almost a billion dollars to spend each year to do so.

Over $200 million of that goes to cancer medicines, with around $50 million spent on Herceptin for breast cancer and Keytruda for melanoma.

But some of the most revolutionary drugs aren't being picked up, meaning terminally-ill patients like 40-year-old mum Karyn Robson are being crippled by bills.

They say you can't put a price on your health. Well Karyn Robson can - $6497.50 a month. That's the price she pays each month for the drugs to treat her lung cancer which was diagnosed in 2016.

"I've never smoked in my life. I haven't even held a cigarette. To hear that I had lung cancer just totally caught me off guard," she told Seven Sharp.

'My parents were with me and they said, 'Well, we want you around. We want you around for your daughter. We'll get whatever money we can together as a family collectively and see how long we can make it stretch'."

Chris Atkinson, medical director of  the Lung Foundation NZ, said the two drugs Ms Robson has had are not yet funded for her type of lung cancer, "and they should be". 

The hope is that the money the family has raised might stretch to the adulthood of Ms Robson's daughter Danica.

"Sometimes it just doesn't feel like it's real, like it hasn't fully hit me that it's happening," Danica said.

Her mother's treatment with the drug has seen her cancer reduce.

"My oncologist called me and he said, 'you've had a complete response in three months.' I couldn't quite believe my ears. I just hung up the phone and burst into tears. I honestly felt like I'd won the Lotto," Ms Robson said.

The drugs will only be available for as long as her family can pay for it.

"I think we've forgotten that lung cancer kills more New Zealanders than any other cancer - 1800 a year. That's five times the road toll. More Kiwis die of lung cancer than breast, melanoma and prostate cancer combined," Mr Atkinson said.

"We have to do better, because we're actually third world in New Zealand now compared with our closest neighbours and compared with many others. That doesn't make me proud after 40 years looking after people with cancer," he said.

Like anyone with a terminal illness, Ms Robson has a bucket list and so does Danica.

"She keeps saying, 'we need to go have a holiday together mum - we've never done that'. And I'm like - I can't," Ms Robson said.

Every dollar goes towards buying another day as a daughter and a mum. 

A Givealittle page has been set up to help continue Karyn Robson's treatment.

Karyn Robson and her family are paying $6000 for her medication but time and funds are running out. Source: Seven Sharp


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