No more sending Kiwis across the ditch as new national neuroendocrine cancer treatment service opens

The opening of a new multimillion-dollar national service to treat neuroendocrine cancer means patients will no longer have to travel across the ditch. 

Kiwis requiring Peptide Receptor Radionuclide Therapy, or PRRT, used to be sent to Melbourne for treatment, but travel restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has made that difficult. 

Since September, a small interim service has been run in Auckland for PRRT, and Health Minister Andrew Little announced on Wednesday that it will be expanded and made permanent.

"For many people, surgery is not an option," Little said. "This treatment can give them quality time with those who matter to them."

The new service will be available at Auckland Hospital and will treat up to 40 people a year. It's expected to cost $1.9 million in the first year and $1.6 million the year after. 

It will be jointly funded by District Health Boards (DHBs) and supported by the recently established Cancer Control Agency. Funding will also come from the Ministry of Health and the Unicorn Foundation, which helps Kiwis affected by neuroendocrine cancer.

PRRT can help manage symptoms of neuroendocrine cancer and increase and improve life for people who have it.

Neuroendocrine tumours are cancers that start in the neuroendocrine system, which makes and releases hormones. They mostly occur in the intestine, where they are often called carcinoid tumours, but can also be found in the pancreas, lung and the rest of the body.

The availability of cancer treatments has become highly political, with advocates calling on the Government to increase drug-buying agency Pharmac's budget. 

Pharmac was given a $200 million boost over four years in Budget 2021, but Pharmac's own calculations showed they needed more than $400 million more per year to fund what was already on their waitlist.

Patient Voice Aotearoa, led by chair Malcolm Mulholland, held a mass lie down demonstration outside Parliament in May calling on the Government to double Pharmac's budget and hold an independent review. He handed over a 100,000-strong petition to ACT's deputy leader Brooke van Velden. 

Finance Minister Grant Robertson argued the $200 million will make a difference.