Why Luxon failed cancer patients so spectacularly


I’ve been commentating on politics for 30 years and I have never in my life witnessed something so cruel and vile as promising cancer patients their life saving drugs and then not funding them.

No matter left or right, no one should promise dying people hope and then break that promise.

Disgusting and utterly disgraceful!

What was worse was that National specifically circumvented the normal processes to make their false promise…

The Government has made its own problem with Pharmac – Steve Maharey

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To recap. Pharmac was established in 1993 by National to buy pharmaceuticals(medicines). Anyone wanting Pharmac to buy a medicine makes an application. Pharmac then goes through a process (this is all on their website) of assessing the medicine then ranking it on an “options for funding” list.

Pharmac negotiates with the relevant pharmaceutical company and settles on a price. It works within a fixed budget, employs 150 people and gets advice from a network of some 400 hundred health professionals.

Because the fixed budget is never enough to buy all the medicines people want, Pharmac has attracted a lot of criticism. Its decisions are said to be too slow and lacking transparency, its staff are heartless – the list goes on. Any organisation can improve its performance (and Pharmac has) but the real problem for Pharmac has never been the way it operates. The problem is the level of funding.

This is where the current Government got itself into difficulty. It promised it would make fundamental changes to the way Pharmac operates.

As part of its election platform, the now Government said it would provide $280 million over four years to purchase these 13 medicines. But, when the details of the 2024 Budget were announced, there was no funding.

At first the Government said they could not afford the $280 million because they had been left a fiscal cliff of $1.7 billion by the previous Government. They were referring to time-limited funding that covered a range of medicines already in use. Ongoing funding had to be found, they said, before anything new could be allocated.

It is odd that the Government was not aware of this situation. The previous Government had time-limited the funding because it intended to reset the entire health budget this year. This was widely understood.

That the Government did not provide the $280m for 13 cancer medicines in the Budget has (and this is speculation) nothing to do with funding. After all, they supported other, less worthy causes.

I suspect they began to have second thoughts about the wisdom of the promise.

Let’s look at a few of the problems they might have come across. It is not the Cancer Control Agency’s job to choose medicines to buy. The list they provided did nothing more than identify medicines not available in New Zealand. They were not suggesting the medicines were effective or suitable for New Zealand patients. In addition, the list is already out of date.

Of the 13 listed, as many as five are of no interest to pharmaceutical companies. They are not seeking funding for them from Pharmac. Of course, they may change their minds now that they know the Government will buy all 13.

The Pharmac model relies on negotiation. If the price and priority of a medicine is known to the pharmaceutical company, negotiations are impossible.

Having made a promise, the Government has a difficult choice to make. It could order Pharmac to buy the medicines and thereby collapse the model. It could ask someone else to buy the medicines and again collapse the model. Or it could give Pharmac substantial extra funding beyond $280m so it can work its way down the options for funding list until it gets to the cancer medicines (assuming the medicines make it to the list).

No choice offers an easy solution to the problem the Government has set for itself.

…it was National Party incompetence as to why it has failed to deliver on its promise to cancer patients!

Cancer patients have been totally screwed over here!

After National promised to pay for their drugs, they have reneged on that promise! The cost of the cancer drug promise would have been $280million, National say they can’t find that money and have broken the promise they made cancer patients clinging onto life and hope but they DO HAVE $2.9billion for tax breaks to their rich landlord mates and $14billion in borrowed tax cuts!

This is the first pro- Cancer Government in global history.


I can’t give you the cancer drugs I promised but I can make a face on TikTok


  1. It is worse than incompetence. Luxon told Australian television that his own parents left school aged 15 and 16, so one could reasonably expect him to have some understanding of the realities of having a deprived life. Here, the deprivation is of the good health which is needed to function on a day to day basis, that is, to stay alive, and to live without too much pain.

    To offer people hope, and then withdraw it once the votes are in, is worse than despicable. It is unspeakably cruel, and morally and ethically shocking. Bad things can happen to good people through no fault of their own, and here the bad is the result of government’s decision making, and sub- human. How he can pose as some sort of Christian, is just another layer of hypocrisy or deceit, or both.

    Someone needs to remind Christopher that Jesus said, “ What you do to the least of my brethren, you do unto me.” Got it ?

    • “Luxon told Australian television that his own parents left school aged 15 and 16, so one could reasonably expect him to have some understanding of the realities of having a deprived life. ”

      No, quite the opposite. It reinforces the gospel of prosperity that he adheres to; He and his family are all the more worthy and deserving of their success. After all, he and his family had to suffer the hard knocks, so, as little baby jesus is his master, he’ll make sure the same applies to all. Kicking the ladders away is the name of his game. Social Darwinism all the way down
      Except for wherever he is personally entitled, of course.

  2. If you’ve ever had close personal experience with cancer, either as a patient or a close loved one, you know what a brutal experience it is to go through. It is a devastating disease for all that is affects.

    To fuck around with it and use it for politics is beyond reprehensible.

    • P Curran. 100%. And blaming the previous government is as scurrilous as Adam blaming Eve when he ate the forbidden fruit, saying the woman made him do it. What a man Chris Luxon is, waffling away while desperate parents try to raise funds to help stricken children, and stricken fathers of families fear not being here to care for them, to see them through school, attend their weddings, and know the grandchildren.

      National’s talk about revisiting the situation is utterly reprehensible when, unless they are total Neanderthals, they know that cancers won’t pause until they do so.

        • Yes you are so right. We have a minister of health who is the invisible man we have act and NZFirst with huge health portfolios. Today we have more redundancy’s from the ministry of health god help us if we get another covid. This will not end well

        • Some of those National voters probably didn’t know that Chris Luxon is not a man of his word, but they certainly know it now. The whole country knows he can never be trusted again. (Apologies for referring to him as a man).

      • To me one thing that is complete crap, is that people with cancer (or whose loved ones have cancer) live in hope. They hope they’ll be one of the lucky few percent. They hope that they’ll get that extra 6 months. They hope that a new drug will come along.

        And so they will have clutched at the announcement whether it was ever realistic or not and that’s what is so cruel when suddenly it was “oops sorry. we didn’t really mean that”.

        National should be thoroughly ashamed about this. I don’t care about the rest of the left wing/right wing tribalism, this is beyond that. It was a stupid, callous thing to do.

  3. First of all, it is now well established that Luxon and Willis are frequently lying. Even for politicians they are shameless.

    What would be good to know is how many if any of the 13 drugs are already on the options for investment list. Those drugs have already been assessed and I think would have included a price ( hence PHARMAC has assessed them to be cost effective). Cetuximab would be one. That has been around for ever and would have
    had multiple submissions.

    My point is how the hell are you saying all 13 will cost 280 million if you don’t have pricing on all 13.

    Steve Maharey makes some odd comments and there is probably some checking needed. What (?) a company pays to register the medicine but has no interest in getting it funded? Perhaps the price offered by PHARMAC was rubbish. That’s a different issue. PHARMAC are not saints despite the historical lauding.

    Is the complicated process Luxon keeps lying about code for ‘the medicine has not been assessed yet’. It’s not that complicated!

      • I know they register with Medsafe, I am saying why pay a fee ( which is not that small) if you aren’t interested. To be fair it could be for the growing private market.

        You are absolutely right on the age of some of these medicines. Cetuximab being just one example. PHARMAC are disingenuous when they basically reference price new medicines to much older ones and expect the same price.

    • Did Luxon promise to fund the treatment in his first budget? If so then he should get the flack. However he has said it is work in process, hence let’s wait till the next budget.. I realise some patients do not have that luxery, but it is still better late than never.

  4. Jackson also says that National’s list of 13 cancer drugs is outdated: “[The list] absolutely and utterly must be [updated]. It’s bonkers to use that list when it’s three years out of date already, because the world has moved on in the last six months, let alone the last three years”.

  5. BREAKING NEWS: The govt is asking those who have previously received artificial hip joints and pacemakers, to hand them back immediately due to financial constraints – read the consent fine print.

    HMMMM: If you take the $14bil expenditure for tax cuts, and divide it by 365 days per year, you find they’re about $38mil per day. For the govt to have kept its cancer drug election promise/bribe/deceit, then $280mil for 13 drugs, could have been obtained by simply delaying the tax cut start date by 1 week – actually a delay of only 1 week + half a day.
    (38+38+38+38+38+38+38+14 = $280mil = 13 cancer drugs = promise kept = lives saved = 1 week tax cut delay = to hard for govt = but not a pre-schooler)
    A smart pre-schooler could have worked this out, but it was apparently too much for the govt to. I mean, how hard would it be, to make that phone call to the IRD, instructing them to delay introduction by 1 week. Muldoon would have done it in a giffy, but they were simpler times.
    The govt is the expert at delaying, and is probably still delaying buying out homes from the 2011 earthquake let alone the Nelson floods, or paying compensation to state care abuse. Perhaps a poll could be taken to gauge support for delaying the tax cuts by 1 week, so the 13 cancer drugs can be funded immediately. Immediately meaning right now, and not some time later in the never never, when the govt wants to get a boost, by announcing it with a hiss and a roar pomp and pageantry, because such macabre political theatre will have come at the cost of cancer patients who didn’t live long enough to benefit.
    Yet Landlords who wanted $2.8bil tax deductibility are already benefiting, while the cancer patients wait. This needed to be done already!
    But at least there will be fewer potholes, and pollies will be getting a 10% pay rise and the $38k allowance some receive for living in their own Wgtn homes is safe, and Sir Bill is $500k richer, and mining and drilling on the conservation estate is set to proceed, and the supermax Waikeria jail is expanding – that’s what’s important.
    Biggles Luxon nominal. Coalition partners rabid. Lobbyists donors and bribes appeased. Resume normal communication. Atlas out.

  6. This is sad I watched many of my whanau die prematurely from cancer, late diagnosis, misdiagnosed, concerns not listened to by GP, no referral until it was too late, very little treatment offered to extent their lives. Its cruel given we can fix potholes; landlords get money yet rents continue to climb and our politicians claiming thousands because they are entitled at a time of austerity. Are we not entitled to a decent health system we pay taxes and what do we get, fuck all.

    • Covid i p. Yes. But even where diagnoses and referrals are timely, effective treatment is still imperative, and this is what these callous bastards are denying cancer patients.

      What’s more, demographically the decision makers have to have had first hand experience with cancer sufferers themselves, but they don’t care.

      The tragic and damaging spin off from premature deaths can last a lifetime, but they don’t care about that either, presumably because their base line is skewed and pathologically anti-social.

      I don’t for one moment think Luxon thinks that crowd fundraising is as easy as Amanda’s $1500 afternoon teas for rich ladies, but he’s as big a little shit as Bill English where human decency is concerned. Willis shouldn’t be in that job at all, and I suggest that Nat insiders know this.

    • The tragedy is it so often down to where you are. If you are in a place like Wellington you will get much better care then say if you’re in the Wairarapa.

  7. Wheel while your post comes from a left leaning point of view it makes some good comments.
    Support National but I feel a little let down by the way this drug deal has been handled .It is dangerous for governments to get involved in pushing one type of drug for political gain. There are expensive drugs out there to help many different conditions not just cancer.The answers mean we need to increase the percentage of money we pay for all drugs to the level they do in Australia

    • Trevor “ Cancer” had an emotive appeal electorally, like Ardern’s “ child povidy”, and as others have commented, it’s not just cancer sufferers who continue to be deprived of even minimal medical care.

  8. ” Luxon told Australian television that his own parents left school aged 15 and 16, so one could reasonably expect him to have some understanding of the realities of having a deprived life ”

    Here we go again. Another self entitled rich toe rag saying how they have done good after being raised in a state house with destitute mummy and daddy’s and that somehow that makes him or her a saint while they butcher the non entitled with austerity measures and making as difficult as he can for the many who are hard working destitute Kiwis he says he represents.

    If only the there was a national protest like the one last weekend that demanded Luxon , Seymour/ Willis and Winston /Shane first be held accountable for the utter cruelty and torture they are inflicting on all of the non entitled who are sick and dying out here.

    If there was any justice this government would be indicted for human rights abuses instead of getting away with deliberately forcing euthanasia on Mothers , Fathers , children , family and friends.

    A give a little page is obscene begging for money when these drugs must and should be funded without the sickening budgets and beauacracy.

  9. i am a stage 3 bowel cancer survivor .On bowel cancer nz Face Book site for Whanau and people with Bowel cancer people were excited the Nats promise to fund life extending cancer drugs .Now they are in shock .if you get to Stage 4 bowel cancer 10 out of 100 live 5 years or more .However thier family members will be alive and will remember the broken promises and vote in next election.Luxton has promised to lower the bowel screening age to 45


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