Call for Inquiry into the cost of life saving and life extending treatments for Maori as breast cancer rates increase
September 12, 2018
The New Zealand Māori Council Chair and National Executive have called on the Parliament’s Māori Affairs Select Committee to hold an urgent Inquiry into the cost of prescription and non-prescription medications when it comes to Māori. Chair, Sir Taihakurei Durie, has said the urgency has intensified as more and more Māori come forward indicating that the cost of life saving or life extending drugs is out of reach.
“My heart breaks every time I hear the stories from our Wahine and their Whanau about the battles they face when it comes to breast cancer. Its not just battling cancer its yet another example of these brave battling the stupidity of a Government Agency out of touch and out of control.” Said Durie.
“The recent case of Wiki Mullholland highlight on national television is an example of this when she said” "I feel really mad actually, me and my warrior sisters who have stage four cancer it feels like we're a bit forgotten. We're mums, we're police women, we're teachers, we deserve to have access to the medication that we need." – and yet they have to resort to crowd funding campaigns to get the funding to try and have as much time with their tamariki that they can get?” He said.
Matthew Tukaki, Chairman of the Council’s Auckland District and Chairman of the National Māori Authority Nga Ngaru has said the call for the Inquiry has his backing and that of a number of organisations:
“The truth the cost of these medications puts it out of the grasp of our people and that needs to change. We already have the odds against us and it should not be up to the generosity of everyday kiwis and whanau when the Government should take stock.” He said
“We have called on the Māori Affairs Select Committee of the Parliament to hold an urgent inquiry into the cost of medicines, the scheduling of medicines and their availability to Māori with specific reference to Pharmac. The inquiry should look at the following:
The cost of medicines vital to Māori to live long and healthy lives
The scheduling process of medicines under the rules and policies of the New Zealand Government Agency Pharmac
The barriers to the availability of such medicines to Māori
Amongst those that must be called to give evidence are:
The New Zealand Ministry of Health
Interested and organizational third parties
Members of the public; Māori
And the cost of all life saving and extending drugs should be on the table” He Said
Raewyn Harrison, a member of the Council’s National Executive also weighed in by saying breast cancer was just one of the illnesses that has stirred us to action. “Maori face enough up hill challenges from suicide to homelessness but when you see the example of life saving drugs in breast cancer being turned down when they are available in Australia it begs the question of what is going on?
Research published in 2016 made it clear that there was also the added pain of inequity when it came Māori women “who have one of the highest incidences of breast cancer in the world. This high incidence is generally unexplained although higher rates of obesity and alcohol intake are modifiable risk factors that may be important. Māori women are less likely to attend mammographic breast screening and are likely to be diagnosed with more advanced disease. This is one of the reasons for the excess mortality. Another factor is differences in the treatment pathway. Māori women are more likely to experience delay in receiving treatment, are less likely to receive radiotherapy, are more likely to be treated with a mastectomy and are less likely to adhere to long-term adjuvant endocrine therapy. However, genetic factors in Māori women do not seem to impact significantly on mortality.
This review looks at the inequity between Māori and non-Māori women and addresses the causes. It proposes ways of reducing inequity through primary prevention, increased participation in breast screening and greater standardisation of the treatment pathway for women newly diagnosed with breast cancer. We believe that health system improvements will decrease barriers to health care participation for Māori women and suggest that further research into identifying and modifying obstacles within health systems is required.” Said Harrison.
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