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A new low

Written By: - Date published: 11:46 am, October 19th, 2011 - 44 comments
Categories: election 2008, election 2011, health - Tags:

Last election, National promised to subsidise a treatment for the rare and deadly Pompe disease. Now, they won’t even meet with the sufferers.

The truth of the matter is that New Zealand can’t afford ongoing treatments that cost $1m per patient per year – not without having to sacrifice cheaper and more effective care to many more people who need it.

Such calculations are the sad reality of a world where we have limited means and many demands competing for them.*

Which is why it is even more despicable that National made this promise. They gave people with a deadly disease false hope just to get a few votes from them and their families.

The Nats will promise us whatever we want to hear to get our votes. Knowing from the start they’ll never deliver.

– Dean


*(although, if we hadn’t splurged $800m  on the World Cup, we would have more to share around. Which would you rather have? Watch a few rugby games (on the TV) or give hundreds of people several more years of life? Best not to look at it in those terms, eh?).

44 comments on “A new low ”

  1. drx 1

    is there any follow up info on the Herceptin promise from the last election?

    • Lanthanide 1.1

      They rushed it through parliament shortly after being elected, with Pharmac suffering political interference for the first time in its history.

      • Herodotus 1.1.1

        Lan – as Pharmac is funded from the govt, all decisions it makes are under govt interferance. The difference this time is is more direct.
        And even though it is the Min of Health – how about the govt influence and mis truths regarding the meningococcal vacine
        or the mass of $ that was spent on the H1N1 swing flu drug – and with the medicine fast approaching its expirely date we still had to pay full price for the medication after being diagionised with this- Well after the media had stopped score keeping cases. And what has happened to the original purchase? I understand that it was dumped- real good use of public money. And the 2nd post is not a dig at Lab as I am sure that this has also occurred under the current govt, just a waste of $ especially as we Joe public are also expected to fund the drug privately.

        • McFlock

          Actually I don’t have a huge problem with your cases, H – although I’m not sure what the meningitis vaccine issue was. 
          Basically, such purchases should be done by bureaucrats with slide rules balancing QALY (quality-adjusted life years) against price, not ministers. The swine flu drug (tamiflu?) was stockpiled as a contingency, and we should be happy it wasn’t needed.

          A bit like if MNZ bought a spill-response vessel (or whatever the name for it is) in 2009, and it wasn’t used for 20 years before being sold at a substantially depreciated price. It wouldn’t have been a waste of money, because in 2009 we didn’t know for sure we wouldn’t need it. As it turns out, such a boat would have come in handy. So really we should just be happy we didn’t need to use govt-issue tamiflu stockpiles, because if we had, it would have meant we were in a pandemic.

          • Herodotus

            the meng vaccine I was referring to was the national one that all under 20’s were able to receive. theree was never any comment thatthis vaccine only offerred protection for 3-4 years. It was made available about 4-5 years ago, and from memory Sweeden and NZ were the only countries to offer (And Sweden innoculation was for a different strain think)
            But McF, tamiflu WAS required as one who suffered from Swine Fle, as most cases such as mine had mild sypmtoms, yet to have tamiflu medicated I had to pay the $60+ yet here we were NZ dumping stock as it went past its due by date, instead of a cost effective way of allowing doses to be free 6 months before expirely date.
            Re oil spill- sure it may not be cost effective to have waiting all machinery for a response. But at least have a plan and where the machinery is around the world. What was the saying ” Most people dont plan to fail, but fail to plan” And there appears to have been a fail to plan scenario !!!

              • Blighty

                a plan that is resourced and works. Like the one recommended by the report that the government ignored.

                Not the crappy plan that we had.

                • insider

                  The thompson and clark report? That basically said things were good overall but could do with a few tweaks in regional responder training and some additional kit for dealing with smaller spills, none of which would make any difference in this case. It doesn’t say what you imply

                  • Colonial Viper

                    Joyce didn’t ask the questions he needed too and he wasnt ready when the real test came.

              • McFlock

                BTW, Iinsider, pointing to a strategy =/= pointing to a plan.
                Hitler had a strategy to take over the world. But without workable, logical, and achievable plans for each step in the strategy, it was just so much bullshit.

            • McFlock

              The circumstances aroung the meningitis vaccine were that were had a growing epidemic of child & youth illness and deaths due to meningitis. As your link to NZMJ shows, a paper from 2008 only has data to 2006, so in 2004 when the immunisation programme was implemented, only NZ-level data from 2002 was generally available. It was unknown whether they were seeing a trend down from the peak, or simply a temnporary plateau. So they made the best decision at the time. But lessons have been learned, as they are from every program.  

              As for tamiflu, the question of how much to stockpile and when to release it is always an issue. Like I say, just because you had it doesn’t mean they should dip into the reserves they’ve built up for a massive outbreak of life-threatening cases.

            • Ianupnorth

              Where did you get the info. re. the Menz B imms? The rates of disease have plummeted; the cost of treating one severe case in an ICU or PICU, or the cost of the loss of a limb really balance out the cost of the immunisation.
              Re. H1N1 (and SARS)- have to agree with you there – we went overboard.

              • Colonial Viper

                Sorry mate the disease rates were plummeting a year before the immunisation programme even started.

                They then had to justify their spend. And at least some of the recent meningitis cases have been from a different strain to that protected from with the MeNZ B vaccination.

                So now what – another million vaccinations this time for a different strain?

                • McFlock

                  “plummeting” is a strong word, particularly as you have to look at the data as it was available when the decision was made.
                  And if it gets to 200/100k again, then yeah, I don’t have a huge problem with a vaccination programme.

                • higherstandard

                  CV I hope you’re not one of these anti-vaccination types – reality is that vaccination is one of the most cost effective/ and indeed effective interventions in medicine.

                  There is an argument that the meningitis programme may not have been needed and the epidemic may have burned itself out, however, even in hindsight I believe Annette King made the correct decision

  2. Uturn 2

    “Watch a few rugby games (on the TV) or give hundreds of people several more years of life? ”

    Sign me up for the people living longer*.

    *disclaimer: haven’t played rugby since I was thirteen. Don’t watch it on TV. Don’t much like the associated culture, so I can’t lose in this deal.

    Tell you what, I’ll trade broadband for dial-up for the extra people living longer. Or even a tax cut, or maybe even a lift in minimum wage.

    • Bazar 2.1

      3-5 people in nz with the affliction.
      $1 million per person, per year, just for the treatments

      And its not a cure.

      The harsh bleak reality is that’s not an affordable treatment. The burden placed on everyone else, to pay for treatments that will improve their quality of life is counter productive.

      • McFlock 2.1.1

        Actually, whether it’s “affordable” depends locally on what other treatments can be funded with that money (e.g. a magic dust that will keep 10 people alive for another year for the same $5mil), but more strategically on what we as a society would prefer to pay for –
        a plastic waka for a couple of weeks?
        Ministerial limos with a heated seat for blinglish’s tush? 
        A tax cut for our wealthiest?
        Keep a few more people alive?
        By the way: “The burden placed on everyone else, to pay for treatments that will improve their quality of life keep them alive is counter productive.”

        • Bazar

          ” but more strategically on what we as a society would prefer to pay for –
          a plastic waka for a couple of weeks?
          Ministerial limos with a heated seat for blinglish’s tush?
          A tax cut for our wealthiest?
          Keep a few more people alive?”

          So you’re either agreeing that it’s too expensive, or you’re saying that two wrongs make a right.

          • McFlock

            No, I’m pointing out our current budget priorities.

            Any of those options might be regarded as “right”, but is a plastic waka up for a couple of weeks really preferable to keeping two people alive for another year? That seems a wee bit fucked up to me. Being able to name one of them just makes it obvious.

            • Bazar

              “No, I’m pointing out our current budget priorities.”

              No, you’re pointing out the most controversial use of this governments spending, and comparing it.

              Like comparing a rotten apple to a rotting orange, and then suggesting that perhaps the apple is better.

              The elephant in the room is that they are both rotten.

              • Colonial Viper

                No that’s bullshit, we’re not going to allow you to run with the neo-liberal line that “Government is the problem”.

                In reality, its decisions favouring the few at the expense of the many which are the problem, and those are the ones which pour out of National.

                • Bazar

                  And its posts like that viper, which make me believe you are incapable of independent (or even intelligent) thought.

                  I’ve not said anything even slightly neoliberal. I’ve only mentioned that the government has better things to spend money on.

                  You then spin into a rabid lashing at the national government’s failings, because they keep “favouring the few at the expense of the many”.

                  Oblivious to the contradiction much?

              • McFlock

                Keeping people alive, even if it’s expensive, is not rotten.
                “Ethically dubious if the money is better spent elsewhere” I can see, maybe even “unwise, because then there’d be no limit to expenses and the floodgates would open yadda yadda”. But to dismiss it as a rotten orange is a bit antisocial, to say the least.

                Even the waka seems to bring joy to some people – whether it’s the best way to spend a couple of mil, I’m not sure, but in wealthier times I wouldn’t begrudge them their inflatable.

      • freedom 2.1.2

        Bazar, please remember you are talking about prices set by the pharmaceutical industry. An industry that reflects the actual costs and profits in much the same way as a funhouse mirror.

        • Bazar

          Well unless another figure can be provided as to the cost of treatments, then the only figure i have to work and judge by is $1 million per person, per year.

          And at that price, its not affordable.
          Even if it was a fraction of that price, i question as to how affordable it would be.

      • Roger 2.1.3

        If it is so unrealistic then surely you agree that National should never have promised to make such a promise. This instance of supposed pragmatism is completely dishonest, Key should pay out of his own fortune if he is unwilling to use government funding otherwise his words are meaningless.

        • Bazar

          “If it is so unrealistic then surely you agree that National should never have promised to make such a promise.”

          I don’t remember seeing where National said they would allow treatment at any cost.

          There was this paragraph in the scoop artical however

          “The National Party made a pledge they were going to make a pathway that made access to high-cost medicine accessible”

          But $1 million per person, per year, isn’t “high-cost”.
          To suggest national broke that pledge because they won’t write blank checks is unfair to say the least.

          But i won’t hold my breath expecting common sense to prevail on this website.

      • fmacskasy 2.1.4

        Actually, it IS affordable. It’s a matter of priorities: http://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2011/10/19/priorities/

  3. Blighty 3

    Pharmac had said that, if they had more money, they would still choose to offer more subsidies on other drugs rather than the long-course herceptin. They said there was more value to be gained in terms of improved health outcomes that way.

    So, to get around that, National side-stepped Pharmac’s decision-making process and allocated some money (I have $49 million in my head for some reason) that was specifically for funding long-course herceptin.

    Now, that’s their right as the government but it doesn’t change the fact that, if that money had been spent subsidising other drugs instead, it would have delivered greater health outcomes for the community.

    Breast cancer is a high profile disease with a strong lobby group. National wanted votes from middle-aged women. Good government and the wider good went out the window.

    • Rich 3.1

      A strong lobby group that’s heavily astroturfed by Roche, who of course have a huge interest in convincing vulnerable people that their product is rather more effective than it is.

      Also, people wishing to lobby parliament ought to take a look at the sitting schedule to see when anyone is going to be there. (Clue: not weekends and not after it’s shut down for the election). I’m amazed that groups do this – or is the idea that the edifice itself is symbolic, like the cenotaph?

      • Lanthanide 3.1.1

        I don’t think they were trying to ‘lobby parliament’, but rather they wanted a meeting with John Key.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.2

      Now, that’s their right as the government but it doesn’t change the fact that, if that money had been spent subsidising other drugs instead, it would have delivered greater health outcomes for the community.

      Yep, the herceptin promise by NAct is proof positive that they don’t understand economics. When you have limited resources you do the best with what you have for everyone. You don’t go around promising a small minority huge chunks of those resources when doing so will actually make everyone worse off.

  4. Bullocks. If banks can print money out of thin air to make a Derivatives bubble of 600 trillion for themselves we can create the same top help the less fortunate
    Take the tax cut to the rich back should help those five people suffering just fine.

    • Colonial Viper 4.1

      You’re talking Social Credit here.

        • Colonial Viper

          Check this out


          Developed countries which form the hubs of the global financial system are the ones which are most screwed by debt (e.g. US, Ireland, UK, France, Germany).

          Note that public debt is less than 10% of the outstanding derivatives liabilities held by the big financial institutions. Its the banks who should die, not the sovereign integrity of these nations.

          Why on earth would we follow the economic ‘leadership’ of these failing bankster occupied debt serf countries.

  5. Tiger Mountain 5

    It is a heartbreaking conundrum for those affected. We all have to deal with our mortality (usually by denial) but these poor buggers have a more definitive idea of theirs. ShonKey saying no would not be a good photo op is probably where it ends for the Nats.

    The pharmaceutical corporates play their part in this sad story too. Science turns up some wonderful treatments and possibilities and then the results are corralled by the corporate funders and certain drugs marketed at exorbitant prices due to the capitalist market model-all research and development costs are ‘passed on’. Which is another good reason to support the 99%ers. System change required.

  6. mik e 6

    National are like all these collapsed finance companies that promised the earth and ripped every body off including the tax payer who cleaned up what was left of the mess.We should take them to the commerce commission for false advertising all promise and no delivery!

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