Deputy Prime Minister and New Zealand First leader Winston Peter has thrown his weight behind trialling a scheme that would allow people early access to new drugs to treat some conditions.
Peters joined 16 other MPs from all parties on Parliament's forecourt today to accept eight petitions from five cancer groups calling for better Pharmac funding for drugs. They were joined by hundreds of people rallying behind the petitions.
The petitions, calling for 26 treatments to be funded for six diseases and signed by more than 17,000 people, were handed to MPs.
The groups represented today were Lung Foundation New Zealand, Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition, Ovarian Cancer New Zealand, Myeloma New Zealand, Pompe New Zealand and Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia Advocates New Zealand.
"Many of us know, in our heart of hearts that substantially, majorly, whether it's your problems or rare diseases across our country, there but for the grace of God go you and I.
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters receives a petition calling for better Pharmac funding for some drugs. Photo / Marty Melville
"That's why we should be supporting a serious improvement in the medicines that are available to you," Peters told the crowd.
"Rather than making you a promise today, our intention is to persuade the Minister of Health, who is on to the case already, to start a new trial with respect to Pharmac to access to new pharmaceuticals.
"We have just got to do better," Peters said.
Amongst those at the protest was Patricia Guttenbeil, who lost her husband Jason to lung cancer.
For 1805 dying each year, lung cancer is our biggest cancer killer.
She told Mike Yardley that lung cancer patients are disadvantaged by living in New Zealand.
"In Australia, the drug that my husband was on, Keytruda, was funded over there. The difference was $13,000 every three weeks, which is what it costs you to get it here."
She says that the drug changed her husband's life, allowing him to cough less and sleep better.
Guttenbeil believes Pharmac needs to look at how they fund drugs.
"Lung cancer patients are not getting a good outcome at all."