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Cancer treatment now widely available

5 January 2005

Hormone-based breast cancer treatment now widely available for Kiwi women

New Zealand women with advanced breast cancer who are post-menopausal, will now have access to a more effective treatment following Pharmac's announcement today that it will subsidise the drug Femara (letrozole).

As one of the new class of hormonal medicines called aromatase inhibitors (1), Femara has proven to have superior efficacy and fewer side effects for women combating advanced-stage breast cancer than the drug of choice to date, tamoxifen.

Dr Vernon Harvey, Medical Oncologist at Auckland Hospital, says Pharmac's announcement signals positive news for many Kiwi women.

"Femara produces better control of advanced breast cancer than other hormone treatments such as tamoxifen and megesterol in post-menopausal women with hormone sensitive disease.

"While aromatase inhibitors have superior effectiveness and less toxicity than other breast cancer treatments, until now they have only been available for patients after tamoxifen has failed, or if the person has become intolerant to that drug," says Dr Harvey.

Manufactured by Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Femara is the only aromatase inhibitor to be fully reimbursed by Pharmac for first-line treatment of advanced breast cancer in post-menopausal women in New Zealand.

Women with breast cancer are advised to talk to their doctor or specialist for further information.

Aromatase inhibitors are not yet fully funded as a treatment for post-menopausal women with early breast cancer.


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