Pharmac to fund more leukaemia medication

By Tema Hemi

From the first of December the Government will fund Venetoclax (Venclexta), medication which will give relief to people living with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. Star Olsen of Ngāti Porou considers himself one of the lucky ones he was diagnosed with Myeloma, cancer of the plasma cells and is currently receiving treatment once a week. 

This cancer advocate knows too well the disease he has doesn't stop or consider anyone. 

Olsen says, "Cancer doesn’t discriminate. It will take you young, it will take you old. Doesn’t matter if you’re Māori, Pacific Islander, Pakeha, Indian. It’s got no friends."

Unfortunately cancer runs through the Olsen family genes and his own son Taikaha was diagnosed with Lymphoma in 2014 and is still battling the disease. 

Olsen also says, “I’m very proud of the way my boy accepted his cancer and what he went through and he was only twenty one. When he got it at twenty one what drove him was Te Matatini. He said, "I want to get to Te Matatini."”

This year the government has boosted PHARMAC's funding $60 million on top of the $40 million allocated in Budget 2019 to provide even more medicines for more people.

Minister of Health David Clark says, "I’m delighted that Pharmac are funding more cancer drugs. We put additional money aside recently as a part of our response to make sure we have cancer action."

But as the war on cancer continues it seems the disease is still winning the battle for life. 

National Party spokesperson on health Shane Reti says, "We understand the Pharmac challenge and in particular you’ve seen be really strong around cancer funding and what our proposals are for cancer funding so is this government doing enough? Probably not.”

Olsen says this in conclusion, "The stats must tell them something. Where the need is. You know the need is with the Māori and that’s it, you can’t go making any excuses if you want help for your people."

Olsen has joined the Te Mauri Cancer support group at Kokiri Marae in Lower Hutt where he finds strength in talking with others who have seen cancer at its worse.