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Pharmac funds treatments for breast and blood cancer

Pharmac – Te Pātaka Whaioranga is funding two new cancer treatments, for advanced breast cancer, and for blood cancer, which will improve health outcomes for hundreds of New Zealanders.

“These new medicines will provide more funded treatment options for people with cancer,” says Geraldine MacGibbon, Pharmac’s Director Pharmaceuticals “In the first year of funding around 400 people will be eligible to receive these medicines. They can help slow down the progression of cancer giving people more time to spend with their whānau.”

The treatments will be funded through an agreement with the supplier, Novartis, and will be available from 1 July 2024:

  • ribociclib (branded as Kisqali) for people with HR-positive, HER2-negative locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer
  • midostaurin (branded as Rydapt) for people with de novo acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) that is FLT3 mutation positive

Pharmac is also removing the funding renewal requirement for sacubitril with valsartan (branded as Entresto), a treatment for heart failure used by around 15,000 New Zealanders, allowing people to remain on treatment for as long as they need it without having to make further applications.

Haematologist, Dr Ruth Spearing is delighted about the decision to fund midostaurin, “Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) is a devastating disease which can shorten someone’s life to a matter of months unless successfully treated. Having midostaurin available will be life-changing as it increases the chance of cure.

“It targets the abnormality that is causing the cancer in a sub-group of people with AML who respond poorly to standard treatment. It will be a real advance for us as clinicians to be able to target this abnormality.

“Having midostaurin available will also potentially mean that people in New Zealand can join new cutting-edge clinical trials looking at even newer agents where midostaurin is the “standard of care” arm and this will advance the cure rate for these patients even further.”

Leukaemia and Blood Cancer Foundation Chief Executive, Tim Edmonds says “LBC has been advocating for funded access to midostaurin since 2019, so we are delighted that this decision has been made for people with AML.

“Approximately 130 people are diagnosed with AML every year, and around a third have the FLT3 mutation. We know, from international studies, that this medicine will aid in the prevention of disease progression and improve outcomes.

“This funding decision takes New Zealand a step closer to providing people with what is considered ‘standard of care’ internationally. We hope that similar gaps in access to life-saving medicines can be bridged for a wider group of blood cancer people in the near future.”

MacGibbon is grateful to those who responded to the consultation.

“Receiving feedback from a variety of clinicians and consumer groups helps us to make sure that what we’re funding will support the population who need it.

“We understand it is difficult waiting for a treatment to be funded, and where people would like to see wider access to funded treatments. Our team works really hard to make sure that we are funding the best treatments for New Zealanders from within our fixed budget.

“We take our decision-making responsibility seriously and while it is ultimately our role to decide which medicines are publicly funded, we’re guided by evidence and the expertise of clinicians and the healthcare sector when making these difficult decisions.”

“Cancer treatments are a really important part of our work. We will continue to work with suppliers, the health sector, and consumer groups to improve access to these treatments,” says MacGibbon.

 

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