Cancer in New Zealand: Haematologist calls for increased funding towards blood cancer treatments

A haematologist is calling for increased funding towards blood cancer treatments in New Zealand, arguing there is a lack of awareness regarding the diseases that kill an estimated 800 Kiwis each year.

Ken Romeril, a haematologist with a specialist interest in myeloma, is the chief executive of Myeloma New Zealand, a non-profit organisation that focuses specifically on multiple myeloma and improving the lives of affected patients.

He believes that a new report, 'The State of Cancer in New Zealand in 2020' - released by Te Aho o Te Kahu, the Cancer Control Agency, on Tuesday - failed to sufficiently address blood cancers, which currently affect around 26,000 New Zealanders.

Speaking to The AM Show on Wednesday, Romeril said he wished the report had placed more emphasis on leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma. 

"In the 152-page report, there was just one page on the treatments of blood cancers," he said.

He said the organisation is calling for access to new therapies that are currently not funded by Pharmac, the agency responsible for deciding which medicines are subsidised for public use.

"We would like access to some of the new therapies. We're falling behind Australia," he said. "They have at least three important drugs - and two other drugs funded recently - and we haven't got them.

"The problem we have with myeloma, we can get people into remission, we can keep them in remission for a while, but when they inevitably relapse, we just don't have the other good drugs there."

Watch the video above.