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Labour urges Govt to move on life-saving drug

John Key should do the right thing and fund a revolutionary new drug that could save the lives of hundreds of Kiwis, Opposition Leader Andrew Little says.

Pharmac last week said it had decided not to fund pemrolizumab, or Keytruda, which oncologists say is a break-through treatment for advanced melanoma.

“Clinical trials show Keytruda is effective for at least one in three patients.

“I’ve battled cancer myself – I know the fear that comes from hearing that diagnosis. It must be devastating for melanoma sufferers to know there’s a drug out there that could potentially save their lives, but that they can’t get it in New Zealand.

“National has underfunded the Health sector by $1.7 billion over six years. It also denied Pharmac the $11 million it said it needed this year to invest in new medicines, giving it just $5 million.

“The Government is spending $26 million on a flag referendum, yet New Zealand cancer patients are being forced to beg on charity websites or throw fundraising events so they can go overseas for medical treatment they can’t get here.

“We’re a better country than that.

“If we had an early access scheme, similar to the one in the UK, patients with life-threatening conditions would be given faster access to ground-breaking new medicines.

“John Key needs to step in and do the right thing. It’s not about picking winners and losers, it’s about saving Kiwi lives,” Andrew Little says.