The stories make harrowing reading.

Women with terminal breast cancer fighting to prolong their lives - knowing there is a drug that may help them do this, but unable to afford the cost of the medication.

Women like 48-year-old Tracy Barr-Smith, whose story featured in the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend on Saturday.

Barr-Smith has stage four metastatic breast cancer - advanced breast cancer which has spread to other parts of her body.


Today, she plans to join hundreds, if not thousands, of other breast cancer patients marching on Wellington to present a petition to Parliament calling for the drugs to be funded.

About 300 New Zealanders are diagnosed with advanced breast cancer each year.

Ibrance, the brand name for palbociclib, and Kadcyla, also known as T-DM1 or trastuzumab emtansine, are already in use and funded or subsidised in other OECD counties such as Australia and the United Kingdom.

They are considered "game changers" by those working in the cancer field, but despite approval by the New Zealand Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority, there is no funding for them here.

Barr-Smith would need to find thousands of dollars a month for the drugs.

Pharmac has sought specific specialist advice from the Cancer Treatments Subcommittee for the drugs, but currently, both drugs are recommended to be funded with low priority.

And that's angered those who believe the drugs could add years to their lives.

Pharmac is designed to take the politics out of funding decisions, but pressure over this issue is already mounting.


Health Minister David Clark note that Pharmac's independence guaranteed impartiality in funding decisions, and the country had been well served by its purchasing power.

"We cannot have politicians second-guessing clinical experts," he said.

However, this has happened in the past.

In 2008, the National Government over-ruled the agency to extend access to breast-cancer drug Herceptin. Closer to home, in 2016 Tauranga maths teacher Leisa Renwick brought sufficient political pressure ion the Government to have melanoma cancer drug Keytruda provided from public funds.

Clark may be right that funding decisions should be free of political interference may be valid, but will be of small consequence to women fighting to prolong their lives, and their families.

The battle lines are already forming on this issue, and, with lives at stake, it will become increasingly difficult for the Government to maintain its current stance.