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Biking for Boobs Highlights Herceptin Hardship

Wednesday 12 March 2008

Biking for Boobs Highlights Herceptin Hardship

The Biking for Boobs Herceptin Protest Ride rolls into Wellington today to present the third public petition asking the government to fund 52 weeks of Herceptin for early stage HER2 positive breast cancer. PHARMAC funds only 9 weeks of Herceptin for early stage HER2 positive breast cancer.

The week-long motorcycle Protest Ride through the North Island has raised awareness of the plight of women who must still fundraise and mortgage their homes to pay for more life-saving Herceptin treatments than the 9 weeks PHARMAC currently funds.

Pharmaceutical advisory body Medsafe registered the 52 week regime for use in New Zealand two years ago. The registration was based on results of the international HERA trial and was supported by data from other large studies involving over 12,000 women.

“Australia, the UK, Canada and many other OECD countries have been funding the tested and proven 12 month treatment for almost two years now,” said Libby Burgess, Chair of BCAC. “New Zealand continues to drag the chain and is not doing the right thing for our women.”

PHARMAC based its 9 weeks of Herceptin for early stage HER2 positive breast cancer on a single small trial involving 232 women, of whom only 54 received the treatment now funded in New Zealand. Medsafe rejected PHARMAC’s 2007 application to register this shorter treatment as safe and efficacious because there was insufficient data to support it.”

Oncologists are advising patients to pay for as many extra treatments as they can afford. “Women are still fundraising and mortgaging their homes on the advice of their oncologists,” said Ms Burgess. “This just isn’t good enough. Our Medicines Strategy says, ‘New Zealanders should feel secure that the health and disability support system protects us from substantial financial costs due to ill health’. The Strategy has a stated aim of providing us with ‘access to the medicines we need, regardless of our individual ability to pay, and within the government funding provided’.”

“Government action is urgently needed to substantially increase funding for medicines, to give New Zealanders the standard of health care we all deserve,” said Ms Burgess.
About the Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition

The Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition (BCAC) is an Incorporated Society with charitable status, presenting a unified voice to call for change, improvement and innovation on behalf of all New Zealand women experiencing breast cancer.

BCAC was formed in November, 2004 when twelve New Zealand breast cancer organisations came together at a forum to create one group. BCAC now has twenty-three member organisations and is currently working on five major initiatives:

1. to ensure consistent, high quality detection and treatment of breast cancer throughout New Zealand by promoting the development and implementation of evidence-based best practice guidelines;

2. to support the prompt and effective implementation of the extended age breast-screening programme (45 to 69);

3. to inform and advocate for improved access to breast cancer treatment drugs;

4. to research and promote the provision of professional psychosocial services for breast cancer patients and their whanau, family, friends and supporters;

5. to identify and promote breast cancer issues for Māori and Pacific Island women


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