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PHARMAC Continues to Disappoint Women

5 May 2008

PHARMAC Continues to Disappoint Women With Breast Cancer

PHARMAC announced today that it will abide by a High Court ruling to consult again on the issue of funding 12 months Herceptin for early stage HER2 positive breast cancer but the government agency is proposing to decline funding of the life-saving drug.

Libby Burgess, Chair of the Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition (BCAC), said today’s response from PHARMAC was both disappointing and concerning.

“PHARMAC hasn’t taken an open and positive approach to consulting on this issue. We would have liked to see a consultation to fund Herceptin, not one to decline it again. This looks like business as usual, with no real intention to come up with a positive solution for funding the internationally adopted 12 months’ Herceptin treatment.”

32 countries now fund 12 months and New Zealand stands alone with its current funding of only 9 weeks for early stage HER2 positive breast cancer.

“The rest of the world has made 12 months’ treatment with Herceptin standard, and is conducting trials looking at adding additional targeted therapies to this. Meanwhile, New Zealand continues to tread water on the issue to the detriment of our women’s health.”

“All the while, women faced with a breast cancer diagnosis are forced to deal with the additional stress of having to fundraise to access the treatment their doctors recommend, or to go without.”

“Despite internationally accepted evidence, PHARMAC continues to assert that the 12-month data is not enough for a positive decision on this treatment for New Zealand women. Meanwhile it is funding a 9 week treatment, which has poor scientific support.”

“In a highly unusual step, PHARMAC is funding an international clinical trial in an attempt to make up for the lack of evidence supporting 9 weeks; this trial has yet to yield any data whatsoever and results will not be available for many years.”

“What will it take for PHARMAC to make a decision for the proven 12-month treatment? Clearly money, not science, is the issue here. BCAC applauds the Government’s recent decision to fund a vaccine for cervical cancer, and asks when will New Zealand women with breast cancer be given the consideration they deserve?”

BCAC indicated it would reply strongly to the PHARMAC consultation. “We will let PHARMAC know the negative impact this lack of funding is having on women and their families.”

“We urge PHARMAC and the government to listen to responses from patients and their representatives, and to the voices of our oncologists who are desperate to give their patients the proven and effective 12 month course. We will not give up.”

“We ask the Minister of Health to hold a round-table meeting with PHARMAC, oncologists, patient representatives and Roche, so we can all work together to find a positive, cost-effective solution for our women. Spending taxpayers’ money on court cases and overseas clinical trials is not improving the health of New Zealanders.”


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