The Government announcement this week that Pharmac will receive a $39 million funding increase in the upcoming budget is great news. It means the organisation will be able to fund seven new treatments across a range of health areas, including a new generation melanoma drug which has been effective in prolonging the life of many patients.
Read more: Life-saving melanoma drugs to be funded
Tauranga woman Leisa Renwick is one of those battling melanoma and has headed up the charge to get funding for the pricey new drugs. This week she told me that when she was diagnosed she expected the doctors to give her whatever drugs she needed to treat the cancer and it came as a shock when she found out there was no treatment publicly funded.
That would have been my assumption too. We have a public health system that works well for the most part and all too often we take it for granted.
We all pay our share of taxes to make sure everyone has access to whatever treatment they need. To find out there was a new treatment available but it was going to cost you $300,000 for two years of treatment because there was no public funding would certainly come as a shock.
It is not fair that only those with money can afford what they need to keep them alive.
The Government has made the right move by pumping more money into Pharmac. I doubt there are many taxpayers who would disagree with the decision. Those in charge of Pharmac are in a difficult position. They cannot possibly fund every drug so there will always be some who miss out on funding for the treatment that would work for them best.
It does seem sensible though that one of these new melanoma drugs is funded - especially considering New Zealand has one of the highest rates of melanoma in the world.
It must come as a huge relief to melanoma patients to know there is one more treatment option. Not to mention the people who will benefit from the other six treatments which include drugs for hepatitis C infection and brain tumours.
We are lucky to have such a good public health system and those in Government need to make sure it has the funding needed to keep it up to scratch.