Pharmac has announced plans to back a Rapid Access Scheme that could potentially give cancer patients much faster access to new and emerging treatments.

“Few cancer patients have time to wait, and many are prematurely dying because they do not always have access to the most optimal medication at the right time in their treatment cycle,” says Peter Fergusson, CEO of Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand.

“Many of these emerging medicines and treatments are being fast-tracked, funded and made available in other OECD countries.”

Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand is part of a coalition of cancer NGOs called CANGO, which has proposed a Rapid Access Scheme to the government as part of the broader solution for improved cancer treatment in New Zealand.

Rapid Access Schemes have been introduced and trialled in the UK and some European countries. While initial versions of these schemes have not proven successful, recent iterations have been streamlined and improved dramatically.

“My hope is for the government to actively ring-fence funding for a pilot scheme from the May budget,” says Fergusson.

Since being elected, the government has confirmed cancer is one of its major health priorities.

“It is encouraging to hear that Pharmac is backing an innovative concept that could reduce cancer-related deaths,” adds Fergusson. “It begins to give hope that this will open the door to new and leading-edge treatment options.”

Phil Kerslake, who is believed to be New Zealand’s longest surviving cancer patient in New Zealand, has been living with different cancers and its treatments since his teens – over 40 years.

Kerslake is encouraged by the prospect of a government-approved Rapid Access Scheme.

“In my case, there are few remaining treatment options, and my current treatments are viewed by doctors as palliative,” he says. “The rapid evolution of new targeted therapies and immunotherapy has given me, and other patients, hope for a better future.


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