Advocates for lung cancer patients say the country's deadliest cancer is being ignored by health authorities, as they point out a stark gap between treatment options in New Zealand and Australia.
But the Government's drug-buying agency says more options don't necessarily mean better results.
Lung cancer kills about five Kiwis a day - more than breast cancer, prostate cancer and melanoma combined - and advocacy group the Lung Foundation has this year been lobbying the government to expand treatment options and prioritise funding.
Ahead of its submission to Parliament's Health Select Committee, the group has released data comparing the drugs available in New Zealand to those across the ditch, and points out about 11 different treatments for non-small cell lung cancers are publicly funded in Australia, while New Zealand only covers about three.
Chief executive Philip Hope says the figures show New Zealand hasn't been keeping up with new treatments and that the approval process was moving too slowly compared with Australia.
"The average in the OECD for approving cancer treatment is less than 250 days ... We'll be looking at 1500-plus days," he said.
"We're just trying to highlight that there's extreme inequity and that we need to do better ... The only reason these treatments are not being funded is because our Government policy doesn't have an appetite for these innovative treatments."
Hope says despite the high mortality rate, lung cancer only received about $2.7 million of Pharmac's nearly $1 billion budget.
"There is a denial about the resourcing for innovative cancer care," he said.
But Pharmac says the trans-Tasman comparison isn't useful.
"A simple count of funded medicines won't show you how successful a health system is. It's not about how many you have, but having access to the ones that work," Pharmac director of operations Lisa Williams said.
"Some of the cancer medicines that Australia funds that we don't, do not provide meaningful gains in health."
Williams said the agency was now considering applications for a number of new lung cancer treatments, but that Pharmac worked with a limited budget and had to assess options carefully, and in a local context.
Research published in the New Zealand Medical Journal last year found the survival outcomes in New Zealand were "poor" compared with similar countries.
The New Zealand five-year survival rate was about 9.5 per cent for men and 11 per cent for women, compared with 16-18 per cent in Australia, Canada and Sweden, it said.
Lung Foundation last month handed in a petition at Parliament calling for the Government to declare lung cancer a health priority and approve more funding for Pharmac.
The National Party has been critical of a boost of just $10 million Pharmac received for the year in May's Budget, saying with population growth and inflation taken into account, it's effectively shrunk.
But that comes after a more than 13 per cent increase it received last year and the Government has pointed to $2.8 billion of extra operational funding for district health boards announced last month.
Health Minister David Clark said he had asked the Ministry of Health to prioritise cancer treatment and an "action plan" was due in coming weeks.
He's also asked Pharmac and the ministry to accelerate work on a trial for an early access funding scheme.
"Such a trial could see a pool of funding set aside to fund a range of new pharmaceuticals - although there would still need to be robust processes in place to ensure New Zealand taxpayers were not being taken for a ride," he said in a statement.
However, he last week indicated the Government had no plan to interfere with Pharmac's decisions on which drugs to fund, saying it was up to experts to decide.
A report for lobby group Medicines New Zealand carried out by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) this year found that because Pharmac had significantly expanded the range of things if bought, there was a $375 million "hole" in its core medicine budget compared with a decade ago.