A Whanganui man who campaigned for funding for a melanoma drug is delighted the Government has decided to fund the treatment.

Pharmaceutical company MSD announced on Tuesday it had signed a provisional agreement with Pharmac, the government drug-buying agency, to fully fund pembrolizumab, known as Keytruda.

The agreement is subject to approval from Pharmac's board.

Keytruda is used in the treatment of melanoma which cannot be removed by surgery alone or when it has spread to multiple sites in the body.


The news was welcomed by Ross Fallen, who was at Parliament in March when an 11,000-signature petition calling for the Government to boost funding to Pharmac so it could subsidise the drug was presented to Health Minister Jonathan Coleman.

"I'm over the moon about this," Mr Fallen said.

He was especially pleased to know that MSD would supply a bridging programme for patients who were either paying for the drug themselves, or who wanted to start taking the drug.

The bridging programme starts immediately and runs until September 1, when the Pharmac funding kicks in.

The programme will be paid for by MSD.

"Good people have died because they can't afford this drug.

"It's inhumane.

"Many New Zealanders can't afford to pay for Keytruda themselves."


Mr Fallen said he hoped this would be the start of funding for other important drug therapies.

"I recognise that Pharmac can't afford to pay for everything. But I got behind this campaign because it affected me personally."

Mr Fallen has had two small melanomas removed, and has a long family history of cancers.

He said he was grateful to the Government for "stepping forward on this issue", the Labour Party for putting pressure on the Government, and petition organiser Leisa Renwick.