8 Apr 2015

Pharmac funds new prostate cancer treatment

6:40 pm on 8 April 2015

Drug-buying agency Pharmac is to fund a new treatment for men with advanced prostate cancer.

Prescription pills

Prescription pills (file photo). Photo: AFP

Funding for abiraterone, known as Zytiga, will begin from 1 May 2015, potentially benefiting up to 1000 men annually.

Prostate cancer is the most commonly-diagnosed form of cancer in New Zealand men.

The funded tablets will be available to patients either before or after they have received chemotherapy, in contrast to Australia where it is available only after chemo.

"Giving men an alternative to chemotherapy is a real benefit for them, and because it's a tablet they won't need to go to hospital to receive intravenous treatment," said Pharmac's Director of Operations Sarah Fitt.

"Clinical trials show abiraterone significantly improves the quality of life for men with advanced prostate cancer and extends life by around five months.

"That's a real benefit for New Zealand men with advanced prostate cancer, a disease where current treatment options are limited."

Prostate Cancer Foundation Chief Executive Graeme Woodside said abiraterone is one of the innovative new treatments becoming available for men with advanced prostate cancer.

Funding for the treatment is also available in Australia, the UK and canada, but had not previously been funded in New Zealand.

There were concerns that some men were paying up to $5000 per month to privately fund their treatment.

Professor Ross Lawrenson, from the Midland Prostate Cancer Research Group, said they were pleased about the funding.

"Abiraterone provides an additional treatment option for [New Zealand] men and has been shown in clinical trials to increase life expectancy over and above our current treatments.

"This will be of particular relevance to older men, those with co-morbidities and those living some distance from a cancer treatment centre who are less likely to be suitable for treatment with chemotherapy."

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