Deputy National Party Leader Shane Reti has issued a “call to arms” over his bill requiring DHBs to administer expensive cancer drugs privately purchased by patients.
Reti says cancer patients are struck by the double whammy of having to spend their savings on getting the drugs they need and then having to spend so much to administer them.
He said The first standing it wasn’t fair that people needed to take out loans or remortgage homes to access essential drugs that Pharmac did not support – up to $ 60,000 for treatment.
Some people could have access to money to buy the drugs, but he said what turned out in many cases to “the straw that broke the camel’s back” was the equal cost of administering the drugs. .
Whangārei’s GP is calling for a change in the law that will see unfunded chemotherapy drugs administered by district health boards, so patients do not need to resort to expensive private clinics.
Reti said he had consulted with stakeholders and oncologists for several months, including the Cancer Foundation and Oncologists, and had received numerous letters of encouragement from people with cancer across the country.
“A gentleman in Auckland said ‘Shane, my DHB is 15 minutes away. I still drive three and a half hours after my DHB to sit in a chair for three hours to have my cancer chemotherapy which Pharmac will not fund,” he said.
“It’s forming a bottom swell. What is happening here, unfortunately, is if you do develop cancer, say lung cancer, and it is recommended that you have something like ATRA – which is not funded by Pharmac. So you have to take out a mortgage. Or loan. A lot of people look at the Givealittle pages to get the roughly $ 60,000 it costs for a course of this cancer drug .
“This is what my bill looks like. Because it is not funded by Pharmac, you are not allowed to have it administered by DHB. So you have to pay almost the same amount again, around $ 1000 per week. to have it administered. To have it administered to you sitting in a chair about three or four hours, you have a drip and the cancer medicine is flowing in your arm, you have a very experienced chemo nurse around. you and you have recordings taken maybe every 30 minutes …
“There is a sentence in the current law that says if your medicine is not funded by Pharmac you cannot get it delivered into DHB and that just doesn’t seem right. These people have already taken out loans. , they have already sold their assets… we can surely finance a wheelchair to at least remove this obstacle. ”
Reti urges people to put pressure on their MPs to ensure his bill is out of the ballet box, so that a select parliamentary committee can consider the merits of what he is proposing and in light of the fate people with cancer.
“The call to arms is that I need 61 backbenchers to say ‘OK, I think this should go to the select committee. I think we should discuss it. Let us listen to the voices of people in this situation. There are about 500 to 1000 myself and oncologists think so, so it’s a small number but it has a huge impact. “
The government’s position on the Reti Bill is that it would create more inequalities in the public health service, as it would simply give public funding to people wealthy enough to fund their own medicine for administration.
A statement released to the media yesterday said: “Reti’s bill would mean that people wealthy enough to fund their own currently unfunded cancer treatments would then take up space in the public health system that would otherwise go. to patients whose cancer treatment is funded by the government. “
Reti also said he did not turn around on a decision to receive an early Covid vaccine last week, but simply sought clarification from the Department of Health as to why he was being asked to stop. have one administered because he thought it was not a priority case and had not wanted to skip the queue. He said he was happy to get a vaccine early if it could help prove its safety.
“When I was approached I said ‘I have no reason to skip the queue, show me what priority I am,'” he said.
“Later that day, which is exactly what happened, I received a letter from Minister Chris Hipkins explaining why he wanted me and why it would be appropriate for me to have a priority vaccine, to which I replied “thank you. If it’s helpful to the global rollout of the coronavirus, then yes, I’m happy to have this profile that supports the vaccine. “
On the issue of the trans-Tasman travel bubble, Reti said the government’s announcement today should be substantial and detailed to reassure businesses affected by the lack of foreign visitors.
“We really need to hear more than just an announcement about an announcement,” he said.
“I really hope we have details and a timeline, new conditions for the opening of a new trans-Tasman bubble. We have to remember that Australia opened the bubble to us in October and November of this year. last year. We know businesses, especially tourism businesses, are suffering, so what I’m hoping to hear is a schedule, conditions and details on where, what and when. “
He clarified that his party’s stance on water fluoridation should be left to local authorities, but as a compromise had suggested that DHBs maintain their contribution to central government decision-making processes. “We just believe that local people should have a voice,” he said.