22 Apr 2020

Pharmac scraps lung cancer drug funding plan

From Checkpoint, 5:37 pm on 22 April 2020

Pharmac has pulled out of a plan to fund a lung cancer drug that would have helped at least 1,400 patients a year, saying it can no longer afford to make the investment.

The move has dashed hopes that Keytruda would soon be publicly funded for lung cancer - New Zealand's biggest cancer killer.

RNZ has obtained documents showing that Pharmac had planned to offer a Request for Proposals, or RFP, where drug companies are asked to pitch their products and prices, but has pulled out on budget grounds.

Chief executive Sarah Fitt has told RNZ that Pharmac is concerned about rising drug prices worldwide in the Covid-19 pandemic and so has put funding for the drug on hold but - but hopes to revisit that in the future.

But lung cancer patients and their advocates are devastated and say they have been given false hope.

Investigative Journalist Guyon Espiner has the story.