Will the Govt fund pembrolizumab?

John Key (Simon Wong/3 News)
John Key (Simon Wong/3 News)

The future of a wonder drug that's allegedly cured former United States President Jimmy Carter's cancer is uncertain in New Zealand.

The 91-year-old says the skin cancer that had spread to his liver and brain has disappeared after he was treated with pembrolizumab.

Pharmac last week said they will not fund the drug in New Zealand.

The Government has not ruled out stepping in and funding it.

"To do that, we've got to give health more money," Prime Minister John Key told the Paul Henry programme this morning.

"We want to help these people, [but] there are quite a lot of drugs and lots of new drugs coming at us in all of this biologics level."

The Government's preferred option is always for Pharmac to "make the right decision", Mr Key says.

"It's very difficult on the efficacy grounds – it clearly works for some people, maybe it doesn't for others.

"What they're saying is, on the budget they have at the moment that in theory, there's some other drugs that are better."

Labour leader Andrew Little says his party will campaign on funding pembrolizumab up until the next election if the Government opts not to.

"It's used in other countries, we know that it's effective," he says.

"We would fund the drug. Once Pharmac made its decision it wasn't going to, I would've immediately put words in motion to say we would find a way to fund it and make it available as soon as possible to New Zealanders."

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