11 Jun 2024

New cancer treatments to be funded 'as soon as we possibly can' - Reti

7:00 pm on 11 June 2024
National Party member Dr Shane Reti

Health Minister Shane Reti says funding cancer drugs is a "priority" for the current government, and an announcement would be made this year. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Instead of an apology for a broken government promise to fund new cancer drugs, the Health Minister has offered "encouragement that we will be funding new cancer treatments as soon as we can".

The government vowed to fund the cancer drugs at the election, with the cost of $280 million over four years, but its promise was not fulfilled on Budget Day.

Cancer patient Richard told Checkpoint last night that the government was prioritising "potholes over patients".

He has been self-funding the life extending cancer treatment Cetuximab, one of the 13 of potentially funded cancer drugs listed by the government. The additional cancer drug is costing Richard a total of $50,000.

Speaking to Checkpoint this evening, Reti was asked if he would like to apologise to cancer patients who thought the government were going to deliver on its cancer drugs promise, Reti instead offered encouragement that new cancer treatments would be funded "as soon as we possibly can".

The health minister says the government "could have communicated better" about whether it was funding 13 additional cancer treatments starting this year.

"Obviously funding cancer drugs is a priority for us, we are working really hard to progress that commitment."

Reti said the government "could've probably indicated we had this in progress, that it is still in front of us".

He said Prime Minister Christopher Luxon has said the government will make an announcement this year and they were looking to do this "as soon as possible".

"There will be a procurement process, there's some infrastructure that we need to develop as well, particularly for people who need intravenous administration, so we are working through all that complexity as we speak," he told Checkpoint.

"We're taking a short period of time to make sure we are getting this exactly right."

Reti said procurement processes and setting up infrastructure took a period of time, but the government was moving at a fast rate.

"We didn't have the tools of government to determine some of the things we need to determine when we were making the decisions we were making."

He said the government was working with Health New Zealand, and Pharmac was one of the options the government was considering for the administration of the cancer treatments.

Reti said the government was still working through other options and will announce the preferred option later, which could include the creation of a standalone agency.

"We think the Pharmac model has a lot of opportunities, it's not perfect, we would like to speed up and be more transparent with some of the Pharmac processes but it certainly has its merits also."

He said the government's promise was they would fund more cancer treatments this year.

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