Jacinda Ardern admits cancer agency may not happen

The AM Show 02/07/2019

New Zealand may not get a cancer agency, the Prime Minister has admitted.

A new cancer agency was one of Labour's policies at the 2017 election, but Jacinda Ardern told The AM Show on Tuesday the Government is assessing its options.

"About six months ago the cancer action treatment expired so we're in the process now of making our first substantial overhaul of that since really Labour was last in Government.

"What I'm expecting off the back of that is them to also look at whether or not it's an agency, whether or not it's a unit within MOH, whether it's the Ministry of Health, how it is that we deliver that consistency."

Cancer has been in the headlines after Winton man Blair Vining opened a petition asking for a cancer agency.

Vining has terminal cancer and his petition received more than 130,000 signatures. National MPs Hamish Walker and Michael Woodhouse took it to Parliament in a suitcase.

Vining's daughter Lily wrote an open letter to Ardern in June pleading for a cancer agency to help people like her dad.

It shouldn't matter where you live in New Zealand or whether your rich or poor

"Anyone with cancer should be able to receive the best possible care."

But Ardern said on The AM Show comparisons with other countries like Australia are unfair.

"New Zealand it costs you and I, anyone, $5 to get a prescription. In Australia? $40. We have a different system.

"Also just the money that goes in, the billion dollars that goes into Pharmac - when things come off patent then we are able to buy more drugs for that same amount of money.

It's our system, though, doesn't help us when it comes to drugs that are new and are going through early trial processes.

She responded to Lily's letter in June, with a handwritten note that Lily's mother said was "very personable".

"Lilly was very thrilled to receive it and it acknowledged there is a greater need for cancer care," Melissa Vining told Newshub.

The AM Show / Newshub reporter Katie Fitzgerald