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Shameful PHARMAC Decision on Herceptin

Shameful PHARMAC Decision on Herceptin

PHARMAC announced today it will not fund 12 months of Herceptin treatment for women diagnosed with the early stage of the aggressive HER2+ form of breast cancer.

“PHARMAC’s negative decision is a cruel blow for women and their families,” said Libby Burgess, a breast cancer survivor and Chair of the Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition (BCAC). BCAC has been fighting since 2005 to have the life-saving 12 month treatment funded in New Zealand.

“PHARMAC’s continuing refusal to fund the treatments New Zealanders need is simply inhumane,” said Ms Burgess. “I’m amazed the government hasn’t stepped in to end this shameful treatment of our women.

“Increased funding for medicines - including 12 months of Herceptin - may well become an election issue. Voters will decide. It’s unbelievable that we are still denied the standard of Herceptin care offered in 33 other countries.”

PHARMAC funds just 9 weeks of Herceptin for early stage HER2+ breast cancer, the only country in the world to do so. Oncologists recommend 12 months and to pay the tens of thousands of dollars needed women must fundraise, mortgage their homes, or go without.  

”We are deeply concerned that PHARMAC’s Pharmacology and Therapeutics Advisory  Committee (PTAC) has indicated there is no new data to show that 12 months is better than the current 9 week treatment,” said Ms Burgess. “The only study looking at this will not produce data until 2015. Our women simply cannot wait that long.

“New Zealand’s Breast Cancer Specialists (Breast Cancer Special Interest Group of the New Zealand Association of Cancer Specialists) have told PHARMAC that 12 months’ Herceptin treatment is the internationally accepted standard of care that should be offered to all our women.  PHARMAC has ignored this expert opinion and opted to defend their entrenched position that 9 weeks is good enough for New Zealand women.”

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-four member organisations and is currently working on five major initiatives:

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;
to support the prompt and effective implementation of the extended age breast-screening programme (45 to 69);
to inform and advocate for improved access to breast cancer treatment drugs;
to research and promote the provision of professional psychosocial services for breast cancer patients and their whanau, family, friends and supporters;
to identify and promote breast cancer issues for Māori and Pacific Island women


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