Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Pharmac Updates Criteria for Breast Cancer Medications, Enhancing Treatment Options

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Breast cancer patients with a specific type can now remain on treatment for longer periods as Te Pātaka Whaioranga has updated the criteria for two breast cancer medications. “We’re pleased to make these changes in response to the feedback we received from breast cancer advocacy groups,” says Geraldine MacGibbon, Pharmac’s Director of Pharmaceuticals.

Starting from July 1st, ribociclib (Kisqali) will be funded for patients with HR-positive HER2-negative locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer. Palbociclib (branded as Ibrance) has been funded for this type of breast cancer since 2020. Both ribociclib and palbociclib are CDK4/6 inhibitors, which slow the progression of cancer, providing patients with more time and helping them maintain their quality of life.

Breast cancer advocacy groups requested that Pharmac allow patients to switch between funded CDK4/6 inhibitors if they experience severe side effects that prevent them from continuing treatment. After considering this request and seeking expert advice, Pharmac has adjusted the eligibility criteria for both palbociclib and ribociclib. This change gives patients who experience side effects the option to continue their treatment with the alternative medication, provided their cancer has not progressed.

Pharmac Enhances Flexibility in Breast Cancer Treatment, Responds to Advocacy Feedback

“While we expect that only a very small proportion of the 900 people receiving treatment with a CDK4/6 inhibitor would experience treatment-limiting side effects, we know that these changes will make a huge difference to those people and anyone else who might be anxious about this occurring,” MacGibbon explains. She acknowledges the significant role that breast cancer advocacy groups played in raising these concerns and their patience as Pharmac sought additional advice from clinical advisors to implement these changes.

MacGibbon emphasizes the importance of consultation in the funding process, stating, “The team at Pharmac reads every piece of feedback received and takes it into account in the decisions we make.” Ah-Leen Rayner, Chief Executive of Breast Cancer Foundation NZ, appreciates Pharmac’s responsiveness, saying, “It’s great that Pharmac has listened to our feedback and has acted on it.” She adds, “This is going to make a big difference to people experiencing severe side effects on this type of drug. It will help them to stay on these valuable, life-extending treatments for longer while avoiding chemotherapy for as long as possible.”

The updated funding criteria reflect Pharmac’s commitment to improving the quality of life for breast cancer patients by offering flexible treatment options. Ribociclib and palbociclib, as CDK4/6 inhibitors, have shown significant effectiveness in delaying cancer progression, which is crucial for patients’ long-term health and well-being. The ability to switch between these medications in the case of severe side effects ensures that patients can continue their treatment without interruption, thus maximizing the therapeutic benefits of these drugs.

Breast Cancer

Pharmac’s Patient-Centered Approach Sets New Standard in Breast Cancer Treatment

Pharmac’s decision to adjust the eligibility criteria also underscores the value of patient and advocacy group input in shaping healthcare policies. By actively engaging with stakeholders and considering their feedback, Pharmac demonstrates a patient-centered approach to healthcare decision-making. This collaborative effort not only enhances the effectiveness of treatment regimens but also addresses the practical challenges faced by patients in managing their condition.

The impact of these changes extends beyond the individual patients currently receiving CDK4/6 inhibitor treatments. It sets a precedent for how healthcare systems can adapt to patient needs and feedback, potentially influencing future decisions regarding other treatments and conditions. The proactive steps taken by Pharmac to improve access to effective treatments highlight the organization’s dedication to advancing healthcare outcomes and supporting patients in their fight against cancer.

Overall, the expanded access to ribociclib and palbociclib for breast cancer patients marks a significant advancement in cancer care. It provides patients with more options to manage their disease effectively, reduces the burden of side effects, and ultimately contributes to better health outcomes. As healthcare organizations continue to evolve and respond to patient needs, such initiatives will play a crucial role in enhancing the quality and accessibility of cancer treatments.

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Resource: Pharmac, June 18, 2024

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