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High Court Forces PHARMAC to Listen to Public

Auckland, 3 April 2008

For immediate distribution

High Court Forces PHARMAC to Listen to Public

New Zealand women with breast cancer and their oncologists will be hugely relieved that PHARMAC has been ordered to revisit its 2006 decision not to fund 12 months of Herceptin treatment for women with early stage HER2 positive breast cancer.

Libby Burgess, chair of the Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition (BCAC) says Justice Gendall’s decision highlights PHARMAC’s failure to properly consult with the public of New Zealand prior to making its decision not to fund 12 months of Herceptin.

“This ruling provides HER2 positive women with their first opportunity for genuine consultation. And we hope that PHARMAC will finally listen to women with HER2 positive early breast cancer and give them access to the treatment their oncologists recommend.”

“We are also pleased that oncologists will finally have the opportunity to openly express their views on the merits of 12 months’ treatment without the threat of ‘9 weeks or nothing’ imposed on them by PHARMAC.”

Ms Burgess says hundreds of New Zealand women have missed out on the internationally adopted 12 months of treatment as a result of PHARMAC’s 2006 decision.

“Twelve months of Herceptin treatment is now funded in 32 countries worldwide, meaning only New Zealand funds exclusively for 9 weeks. BCAC salutes the eight brave Herceptin Heroes who paid for their own treatment and then fundraised to take this Judicial Review to court.”

Although the judge has ordered that PHARMAC consult openly and fairly and determine their decision afresh, Ms Burgess says BCAC is concerned at statements made by PHARMAC’s lawyer during the judicial review that it would be ‘pointless’ for the judge to require proper consultation on funding 12 month’s treatment because ‘any decision would be the same.’

To ensure all views are taken into account BCAC is proposing a round-table conference take place involving PHARMAC, patient representatives, oncologists, Ministry of Health staff and Roche.

”This isn’t just a victory for the Herceptin Heroes, it’s a victory for all New Zealanders. This ruling ensures that PHARMAC will have to consult with the public, clinicians and those affected on all future funding decisions.”

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 Mâori and Pacific Island women


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