Breast cancer drug advocate lashes out at Labour after Pharmac inquiry blocked

An advocate for a breast cancer drug has lashed out at Labour politicians for blocking an inquiry into Pharmac.

On Wednesday morning, National's Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse presented a motion to have the Health Select Committee launch an inquiry into the drug-buying agency.

It followed heavy criticism of Pharmac's processes from breast cancer sufferers wanting the agency to fund life-extending drugs like Ibrance and Kadcyla.

Some, like Wiki Mulholland, pay up to $6000 a month for Ibrance and question Pharmac's timeliness as it considers funding the medicine.

Woodhouse earlier told Newshub an inquiry should look into three aspects of Pharmac.

"One is the level of funding, the other is the level of transparency in their decision-making, and the third is the time it takes them to make those decisions," he said.

But the committee decided against recommending the inquiry to the Government, with the four National committee members voting for it, and four others voting against.

The opposing members were New Zealand First's Jenny Marcroft as well as Labour's Louisa Wall, Liz Craig and Angie Warren-Clark.

Despite the tie in votes, the motion cannot progress.

After the vote, Malcolm Mulholland, Wiki's husband, released a statement saying he was "deeply saddened" by Labour's decision.

"The result of this decision is that people with advanced cancer, including breast cancer, will die sooner than they should. Why? Because the New Zealand system of funding drugs is broken in this country," he said.

"I thought Labour was for the poor and working class - how wrong have we been. There is nothing kind or compassionate about this decision."

He said attempts to fight for an inquiry into Pharmac were "by no means over" and offered to meet with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to discuss why an inquiry was needed.

Wiki said last year that the cost of the drug was far too high.

"When you're left with that decision you kind of think about... do we sell the house? Do I stop working? Do I cash in KiwiSaver? There's all these things going on for us at the moment and I don't want to make big decisions while I'm sick," she said.

If the unfunded drug was available in New Zealand, Wiki said it would give her and other women with breast cancer a better quality of life and it could also prolong life.

It is funded in Australia, and last month, Breast Cancer Foundation chief executive Evangelia Henderson told Newshub it should be in New Zealand.

On Wednesday morning, Health Minister David Clark told The AM Show that he stood by the Pharmac model, but admitted he was asking the agency to look into some aspects of its processes.

"My view personally is that the Pharmac model works and that it needs to be supported to work," he said.

"I also support and have encouraged obviously, that they look at the transparency and timeliness of their processes. To me that is the priority.

Clark said it is up to the select committee to decide if an inquiry was needed, but he doesn't support politicians interfering.

"Ultimately, these decisions are made by clinical experts and I think it is really important that politicians don't second-guess those clinical decisions," he said.

"[The select committee members] know, as I am telling you and as I have said in public many times, that I don't think an inquiry is the productive way of going about it."

Petitions calling on Clark to work with Pharmac to fund Ibrance and Kadcyla received 29000 and 1500 signatures, respectively, and were delivered to Parliament last year.