Dying melanoma patient calls for Keytruda funding

Dying melanoma patient calls for Keytruda funding

The family of a woman dying of melanoma believe if the drug Keytruda had been fully funded, it could have saved her life.

Amanda Vella started taking the expensive immunotherapy drug in January after her medical insurance paid out.

But her doctors stopped the treatment after just two courses, saying it was too late.

At just 39 years old, mother-of-two Ms Vella has been given just a matter of days to live.

She has terminal melanoma cancer, which she's been fighting for six years.

"We always knew that Keytruda was our, hopefully, our saving grace," says Ms Vella's mother, Anne Reed.

Speaking on behalf of her daughter, Ms Reed says Ms Vella only started taking Keytruda recently, at a cost of more than $20,000.

A large part of that came from medical insurance, which was only paid once her cancer was deemed terminal.

"They decided, the doctors, to stop the treatment, because it wasn't working -- it had been started too late," says Ms Reed.

Ms Vella's husband only proposed to her last week and they brought the wedding forward because of her rapidly declining health.

Today the newlyweds celebrated with friends and family.

It was also a chance for Ms Reed's two young daughters -- six-year-old Alex and 10-year-old Cameron -- to share the special day with their mother.

Now, Ms Reed wants Pharmac to change its position and fund Keytruda.

"It's too late for Amanda, but it wouldn't be too late for a lot of other people," she says.