Community fundraises for game-changing melanoma drug
A west Auckland community is raising money to help fund potentially lifesaving medicine for a young melanoma sufferer.
Keytruda is funded in Australia and the UK, but not here.
At today's sunny Sunday gala they were raising money to save a life.
"It started off as a concept of a garage sale and then it's turned into a gala," says Jeff Paterson.
Mr Paterson has been battling melanoma since he was 16. He's now 22, and the cancer has spread.
He's already raised more than $63,000 on his Givealittle page, but the treatment is expensive.
"It's about $10,000 every three weeks, and so more than $300,000 is what I actually need."
There's mounting pressure on the Government's pharmaceutical agency Pharmac to make funding available for pembrolizumab, also known as Keytruda – an immunotherapy drug that oncologists are calling a game changer.
"They can shrink the tumour in front of your eyes, literally," says oncologist Christopher Jackson.
It's funded in Australia and the UK, but here people have to raise their own funds.
The family is putting on a brave face.
"It's just amazing," says mum Anita Paterson. "We just really feel like the whole community's come together today, just for Jeff, and helping Jeff with his treatment and helping us as a family to deal with it."
But the frustration's clear.
"How can you put money before life?" says Mr Paterson. "It doesn't make sense."
Keytruda has Medsafe approval, and Pharmac is currently awaiting recommendations from the Clinical Advisory Committee.
For hundreds like Jeff, there's a lot bidding on it.