This week's announcement that Pharmac is likely to fund Keytruda, a drug used for the treatment of melanoma, shows just how much ordinary people can achieve when they band together to make their voices heard.

Pharmac issued a consultation document proposing to pay for Keytruda from September 1.

This follows its earlier decision to fund Keytruda rival Opdivo, starting today.

Both are high-cost cancer drugs in a new class of immunotherapy medicines, called PD-1 inhibitors, which are extending the lives of some advanced-melanoma patients who have no other treatment options.


Pharmac said in the consultation notice on its website that it had "now reached a commercially favourable provisional agreement" with the maker of Keytruda (pembrolizumab), Merck Sharp and Dohme, and was seeking feedback on the proposal which also involves two other drugs.

The agreements made to allow two different drugs to be funded is in large part down to those who organised petitions or peaceful rallies and publicly told their stories.

I don't believe we would have this outcome, this fast were it not for the public outcry.

Tauranga woman and melanoma patient Leisa Renwick was one of those who headed up the campaign.

She started a petition to Parliament which gained 11,000 signatures by the time it was presented to Tauranga MP Simon Bridges and Health Minister Jonathan Coleman.

It is largely thanks to her and those who got behind the campaign that we have such a great outcome.

Those battling melanoma and those who will be diagnosed in the future can now at least have the assurance they have access to these revolutionary drugs which may save or prolong their lives.

It has proven petitions, peaceful rallies and personal stories can create change.

It shows there is no need for riots or other actions which only cause chaos.

No political system is perfect but this is the prime example of democracy at its best and should encourage others to take action to see change on issues they are passionate about.