8 Oct 2019

Cancer patients to benefit from new Pharmac funded drugs

10:09 am on 8 October 2019

Cancer patient advocates are welcoming Pharmac's decision to pay for two new drugs but say New Zealand is still way behind the rest of the world in access to life-saving medicine.

Breast cancer awareness.

Breast cancer awareness. Photo: 123rf.com

From December, the government's drug-buying agency will fund Kadcyla for some breast cancer patients, and Alecensa for lung cancer.

Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition chair Dr Libby Burgess said Pharmac listened to input during consultation, broadening criteria and lifting restrictions.

She told Morning Report about six percent of breast cancer patients would benefit from two other drugs, and there needed to be more money set aside to treat a range of illnesses.

"Across many many diseases in New Zealand there are effective great medicines that aren't because Pharmac doesn't have enough in its coffers. We'd really like to see a significant increase, in fact, a doubling of the medicines budget."

Lung Foundation New Zealand chief executive Philip Hope said Pharmac made no announcement about Keytruda, which he described as the greatest step forward in the treatment of lung cancer.

He told Morning Report not all eligible patients would know that treatment was for them.

"Many patients don't get their tumour tested. There could be potentially 50 or 60 patients out there that have the biomarker but don't even know it."

He said the new drug could extend the life of 28 patients a week.

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