Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Cancer Treatments Consultation: Pharmac Opens First Review Following Funding Boost

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Cancer treatment access is being significantly expanded by Te Pātaka Whaioranga as part of its first public consultation following a recent substantial budget boost. This initiative represents a landmark effort in the ongoing fight against cancer, aiming to make these essential treatments available to individuals living with cancer starting from October this year. Geraldine MacGibbon, Pharmac’s Director of Pharmaceuticals, expressed her enthusiasm and optimism for the future impact of this initiative, stating, “We’re excited that we can work towards making more medicines available for people living with cancer from October this year.”

This expansion is not just a milestone for Pharmac but also a beacon of hope for countless patients and their families who have been waiting for more effective treatment options. The public consultation process is a crucial part of this initiative, inviting feedback and engagement from a wide array of stakeholders, including healthcare professionals, patients, advocacy groups, and the general public. This inclusive approach ensures that the proposed changes are informed by those directly affected by these diseases, thereby fostering a more comprehensive and patient-centered healthcare system.

Cancer Treatment Expansion: MacGibbon Highlights Impact of Budget Boost on Pharmac’s Swift Action

MacGibbon emphasized the transformative potential of this initiative, highlighting how the budget boost enables Pharmac to act swiftly and decisively. “The funding increase has provided us with an unprecedented opportunity to expand our range of available treatments significantly. By listening to the needs and concerns of the community through this consultation process, we can ensure that our efforts are aligned with the real-world needs of those we aim to serve,” she said.

The initiative’s scope is vast, addressing various types of cancer that affect a significant number of New Zealanders. Specifically, Pharmac is looking to fund pembrolizumab (branded as Keytruda) for eligible patients with advanced triple-negative breast cancer, head and neck cancer, colorectal cancer, bladder cancer, and Hodgkin lymphoma starting from October 1.

Additionally, nivolumab (branded as Opdivo) is proposed for funding starting from November 1 for eligible individuals with kidney cancer. These targeted therapies have been shown to slow the progression of these aggressive cancers significantly, offering new hope and potentially improved outcomes for patients.

Cancer Treatment

Cancer Treatment Proposal: Pharmac Targets Six Cancer Types with Keytruda and Opdivo Funding

The proposal focuses on two targeted cancer treatments that address six different types of cancer, potentially benefiting around 500 New Zealanders in the first year of funding. Specifically, Pharmac is looking to fund pembrolizumab (branded as Keytruda) starting from October 1 for eligible patients with advanced triple negative breast cancer, head and neck cancer, colorectal cancer, bladder cancer, and Hodgkin lymphoma. Additionally, nivolumab (branded as Opdivo) is proposed for funding starting from November 1 for eligible individuals with kidney cancer.

MacGibbon highlighted the importance of these treatments, saying, “We’ve heard from lots of people that they’ve wanted to see immunotherapies funded for more people, so we’re really pleased to progress this funding proposal. We know both of these medicines would make a significant difference to people’s lives by slowing the progression of their cancer.”

Libby Burgess, Chair of the Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition, also expressed her support for the proposal. She stated, “It’s fantastic to know that Keytruda could soon be funded for advanced triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). This is the first targeted therapy to be offered to New Zealanders with this aggressive form of the disease. The recent boost in funding for Pharmac to give access to more effective modern medicines will make a huge difference to the lives of many patients and their families.”

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In addition to cancer treatments, the proposal includes widening access to prevent infections in individuals at risk of invasive fungal infections starting from October 1. The medicines involved are posaconazole (branded as Posaconazole Juno and Devatis) and voriconazole (branded as Vttack and Vfend).

This initiative follows the Government’s additional funding to Pharmac in June 2024, aimed at funding new medicines and widening access to already funded treatments for both cancer and non-cancer health conditions. MacGibbon emphasized the broader impact of this funding boost, saying, “This is the first of many proposals that we’re working on and we’ll be issuing more consultations over the coming weeks and months. We’re pleased that we can move so quickly to put our budget increase into action to help New Zealanders get the medicines they need.”

This expansion of access to vital cancer medicines represents a critical step forward in providing better care for patients facing life-threatening conditions. By funding these targeted therapies, Pharmac aims to enhance the quality of life and improve survival rates for many New Zealanders. The commitment to continuous public consultation ensures that the voices of those affected are heard and considered in the decision-making process, fostering a more inclusive approach to healthcare advancements.


Resource: Pharmac, July 05, 2024

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