Hundreds demand Government funding for cancer drugs

More people die in New Zealand of lung cancer than any other cancer.

Ironically, it's also the cancer with the most new, effective drugs available - the problem is they're not funded here.

More than 100 people have marched on Parliament, demanding life-extending drugs be funded for cancer patients.

A three-minute vigil was held outside drug funding agency Pharmac to represent 3000 Kiwis whose lives were cut short last year.

For Troy Elliott, this issue is deeply personal. His wife Tracey was diagnosed with stage-four breast cancer five years ago. Drugs have kept it at bay until now.

"She wasn't feeling too good and things seemed a bit odd," he told Newshub. "I took her along to hospital and she had an urgent MRI, where it was discovered her whole frontal lobe is unfortunately tumour."

He's been told there's only one drug that can help her - Kadcyla. It's funded in the UK and Australia, but not here. 

Elliott has established a Givealittle page to help fund his wife's treatment.

"It's going to cost us $8865 approximately, every three weeks. That adds up to about $120,000 per year."

He says for people like him, Givealittle becomes a surrogate Pharmac, and that's wrong.

"An extra three to five years with your family, raising your young children - you shouldn't put a price on that," cancer survivor Emma Crowley says.

Families of those with five cancers - lung, breast, ovarian and two types of blood cancer - marched to Parliament to deliver a 25,000-signature petition to MPs.

"We're just asking for what the rest of the OECD has," Crowley says.

The Lung Foundation wants waiting lists cleared and a more responsive mechanism for reviewing and approving new treatments in New Zealand, which takes three times longer here than it does in Australia.

The Government says it's looking at a system for funding new drugs, as Germany and the UK have done.

Elliott says the upcoming 'Wellbeing' Budget is the perfect time for the Government to commit to boosting access and funding. He needs it for his wife.

"She is an amazing person and I can't imagine waking up one morning without her there."