A 71-year-old Wellington woman with advanced melanoma is overjoyed that her and her husband will no longer have to drive to Auckland for infusions, now that Pharmac has confirmed it will fully fund Keytruda.
The drug-buying agency has today announced it will 100 percent fund the drug, pembrolizumab, known as Keytruda, from 1 September.
Joy Cole's husband, Geoff Cole, said the news was a huge relief.
He said they had had to make the trip up to Auckland every three weeks for the past five months for infusions.
Now they will only have to go as far as Wellington Hospital from their Porirua home.
Mr Cole said the announcement also meant she would not have to switch the Pharmac-funded alternative, Optivo, which they were thinking about back in May.
He said Mrs Cole was responding really well to Keytruda, with the most recent CTV scan showing some tumours had disappeared completely.
Melanoma New Zealand has also welcomed today's announcement.
Chief executive Linda Flay said it was a breakthrough for the 300 patients a year who would benefit from both drugs.
She said it would save lives and save patients hundreds of thousands of dollars, as those who self funded the drug were spending up to $300,000 on treatment in a few years.