Funding for cancer drugs

The government announced its first Budget on 30 May, but funding for some new drugs for cancer was not included.

Before the election last year, the National Party promised that if they won the election, they would fund 13 drugs for cancer that are not subsidised in New Zealand. They said then that these drugs were funded in Australia and as a result, survival rates for cancer in Australia were higher than in New Zealand. The drugs are for several types of cancer, including lung, liver and skin cancers. The National Party said they could fund these drugs if they restricted free prescriptions to elderly people and those on low incomes. The previous Labour government made prescriptions free for everyone.

However, in the Budget there was no funding for the cancer drugs. Prescription fees for most people will return on 1 July, and the money saved from this change will go to Pharmac, which is the organisation who decides which medicines are funded in New Zealand. But this money is not going to fund the 13 cancer drugs. The Finance Minister, Nicola Willis, said it was not possible to fund them in this Budget, but that the government is still committed to doing it in the future. The Prime Minister, Christopher Luxon, has said they will make an announcement as soon as possible.

Many people with cancer are very disappointed about the lack of funding for drugs that they need. Some of them pay for the drugs themselves now, but they are very expensive. One person said she pays $5,500 per month for the drugs she needs, and another pays $8500 every two weeks. They use their savings, are helped by family and friends, and sometimes raise money through public fundraising such as Givealittle pages. Doctors and organisations are also shocked that the funding was not in the Budget. A group including the Cancer Society wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister, the Finance Minister, and the Associate Health Minister, David Seymour, to urge them to keep their promise and fund the drugs urgently.


Budget – an official statement from the government about how much income it has and how much it will spend

subsidise – to pay part of the cost of something

prescription – medicine or treatment ordered by a doctor

fundraising – collecting money for a specific purpose