There's the story of the 38-year-old solo mother of a teenager, the 68-year-old healthy grandmother of eight.

There's also the Chinese immigrant who was diagnosed with lung cancer aged 51 and the 43-year-old Wellington mum of three.

They're just a few of the thousands of people currently battling lung cancer, the most deadliest in New Zealand which kills more than breast cancer, prostate cancer and melanoma cancer combined each year, according to the Lung Foundation.

Foundation chief executive Philip Hope says five people die of the disease every day while a further six are diagnosed.


The foundation is a non-government patient advocacy group dedicated to promoting healthy lungs and early detection of lung disease.

It last month launched a petition calling for more and fairer funding from Pharmac given the amount of deaths that are caused by lung cancer each year.

Hope said currently lung cancer drugs get $2,771,115.00 - or 2.3 per cent - of funding.

"Lung cancer patients in New Zealand are being disadvantaged, because Pharmac's funding policy for lung cancer treatments is third world and it is systematically causing our most fragile to die prematurely."

Hope coincided the launch of the petition one year to the day that sufferer Jason Guttenbeil died from lung cancer. He and his supporters will delivered it by hikoi to Parliament next month, prior to the wellbeing budget being announced.

Guttenbeil was a big advocate for the organisation and highlighting the funding disparity, Hope said.

Guttenbeil's wife, Trish, said it had been a tough year since her husband's death but she was proud to hear the petition had been launched in his honour.

However, she was disappointed to hear of the battle those with lung cancer were still enduring with Pharmac and how expensive the drugs were.


She said Guttenbeil got to spend an extra six months with family thanks to the drug, Keytruda. Unfortunately, despite the fact it works for those with lung cancer it isn't funded by Pharmac, so the family were left paying $13,000 for a dose every three weeks.

Jason Guttenbeil got an extra six months with family thanks to the drug Keytruda. However, it came at a cost of $13,000 every three weeks. Photo / File
Jason Guttenbeil got an extra six months with family thanks to the drug Keytruda. However, it came at a cost of $13,000 every three weeks. Photo / File

"I feel for lung cancer sufferers ... it is a cancer that doesn't have a good outcome but I can say that if Jason hadn't have had Keytruda he would have literally been dying on the couch.

"It's really horrible, a lot of coughing, loss of energy and unable to breathe very well and it just continually gets worse. That's what you're watching the person you love go through every day and get worse and worse and worse."

Wellington mum Marjolein Baas was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in 2016 after a period of getting wheezy, coughing and suffering shortness of breath.

A CT scan revealed a tumour on her lung as well as cancer on her liver, spleen and three on her brain.

The 43-year-old mother of three said she was lucky enough to get onto a drug trial at Auckland hospital for Ceritinib medication.

After being given four to six months live, she was now two years down and counting and back to hiking, biking and helping out at her children's schools.

However, she knows the days on the trial are limited before her family would face a $6500 monthly fee to get on another drug, Alectinib, to extend her life.

Pharmac spending of cancer treatment drugs 2017/18:
[figures - Lung Foundation of NZ]

• Transtuzumab (Herceptin), Breast Cancer, $36.7 million

• Pembrolizumab (Keytruda), Skin Cancer, $23.6 million

• Abiraterone (Zytiga), Prostate Cancer, $22.3 million

• Lenalidomide (Revlimind), Blood Cancer, $21.3 million

• Rituximab (Mabthera), Blood Cancer, $18.1 million

The top three lung cancer treatments funded by Pharmac in 2017/18

• Erlotinib (Tarceva), Lung Cancer EGFR, $1,197,494

• Getfitinib (Iressa), Lung Cancer EGFR, $1,174,417

• Pemetrexed, Lung Cancer $399,204.00