The Cancer Society is calling for a rethink of the way medicines are funded as many expensive new drugs are about to hit the market.
It follows recent debate over the breast cancer drug Herceptin. National has pledged to fund a 12-month course of the drug after government drug-funding agency Pharmac previously refused to do so.
In the next two years, the society says more than 400 new drugs are expected to become available, costing about $200,000 a year per patient.
Medical director and oncologist Chris Atkinson says it is time to broaden the debate and find ways to prioritize funding for these drugs.
He says discussions should include members of the public, health economists, scientists and specialists.