Cancer drugs advocate Malcolm Mulholland considers running for Parliament

The husband of a woman fighting advanced breast cancer isn't ruling out running for Parliament to get her - and other patients - the drugs they need to survive.

Patient Voice Aotearoa, which Malcolm Mulholland chairs, will deliver another eight petitions to MPs on Thursday.

"Since October last year... we would have had over 20 petitions going to Parliament calling for over 50 drugs to be funded, that have been signed by over 155,000 people," he told The AM Show on Thursday.

"If that's not a medicine funding crisis, I don't know what is."

The conditions targeted in the latest petitions are cystic fibrosis, diabetes, phenylketonuria, Fabry disease, bowel cancer, Lynch syndrome, gliomas, and head and neck cancer.

Mulholland wants drug-buying agency Pharmac's funding doubled immediately, and tripled within two years, and he's considering getting into politics to make it happen.

"I actually haven't made that decision. That's still very much a decision I need to make in the coming months. To be honest, I haven't heard a politician articulate the type of answer that we want to hear. The jury is still out." 

Pharmac's budget has been increased nearly 20 percent in the past four years, reaching $995 million this year. But that was only a 1 percent increase on the previous year, which followed a massive 13 percent boost the year before.

The petitions arrive after Newshub spoke to a widow whose cancer-suffering husband died, leaving behind thousands of dollars' worth of unused medicine - which she's not allowed to pass on to another patient.

"We don't have enough money in our health system and yet we are prepared to chuck $10,000 worth of perfectly good specialist medication that somebody out there could bloody well use. I just don't understand it," said Deb McCullough.

Manufacturers are unable to buy back medications for re-use once they've been sold.

Malcolm Mulholland.
Malcolm Mulholland. Photo credit: The AM Show

Mulholland called the situation "absolutely nuts", saying Zelboraf is funded in 44 countries, but not New Zealand.

"Some of those countries include Bosnia, Lithuania and Australia. What the law currently does is make criminals of people who should be heroes."

Despite the risk of jail, he says some patients are buying and swapping pricy medicines on the black market.

"What are people going to do? Are they going to run the risk of potentially going to jail in the hope that they live? Of course they are."

The Medicines Act is currently under review, but the Ministry of Health told Newshub earlier this month it wasn't clear yet whether drug trading and exchanging would be looked at.