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Herceptin consultation underway

Media release

5 May 2008

Herceptin consultation underway

PHARMAC has today begun consulting on a proposal to decline funding for 12 months’ treatment for HER2 positive early breast cancer with Herceptin.

The consultation is a result of the High Court judgment on a judicial review of PHARMAC’s Herceptin decisions. The judgment set aside a 2006 decision by PHARMAC not to fund Herceptin, and directed PHARMAC to consult on 12 months’ Herceptin funding.

Chief Executive Matthew Brougham says PHARMAC has taken time to consider the implications of the judgment, and is implementing the Court’s direction.

PHARMAC’s proposal is that funding for 12 months’ Herceptin be declined.

“We acknowledge that a number of people have hopes of a 12 month treatment being funded. Our view in July 2006 was that funding 12 months’ Herceptin could not be justified under our decision criteria. Since then some new information has become available. This and any other new information, along with consultation responses, will be taken into account before any decision is made.”

“To help people make meaningful responses, and to be transparent about our current thinking, it is important we make it clear in consultation what our proposal is – the proposal is for funding to be declined.”

Matthew Brougham says PHARMAC has an open mind and will give serious consideration to all information that is received, before any decision is made.

“We want to hear any and all views that people want to share. We are expecting a high level of interest in the proposal, but consultation is not about counting votes. Consultation is about ensuring the decision maker has all relevant information before it when making a decision. As PHARMAC will need to carefully assess submissions, people are encouraged to identify and explain the reasons supporting their view.”

“We want to assure people that PHARMAC has an open mind and is treating this as an opportunity to review all available materials, hear from all interested parties, and to ultimately make a robust decision having followed a fair and open process.”

PHARMAC is also aware of a major oncology conference in the United States at the end of May, where further relevant data may be presented on Herceptin. If further information is presented at the conference or elsewhere, PHARMAC will consider it.

Given the high level of public interest, PHARMAC is consulting on the proposal until 9 June, including meetings with a number of interested groups and individuals, as well as obtaining written feedback.

“The consultation process on this proposal will be similar to our consultation around funding 9 weeks’ Herceptin in early 2007, which the Court found to be more than adequate.”

A consultation letter, outlining the funding decline proposal and seeking feedback, is being sent to interested groups today, and posted on PHARMAC’s website (

Matthew Brougham says it is important to remember that a full and effective treatment of Herceptin remains funded and available to New Zealanders at this time – the 9 week treatment concurrent with a taxane.

With respect to 12 months treatment, even if the Board decides not to fund such a treatment following this consultation, PHARMAC could still reconsider that decision in future if new information shows that funding could be justified under PHARMAC’s decision criteria.


See... Background information (PDF)

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