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National throws a lifeline to 300 women

9 December 2008

National throws a lifeline to 300 women

The New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation (NZBCF) is relieved that 300 New Zealand women each year with HER2 positive early breast cancer will now have a 12 month course of Herceptin fully funded through the public health service if their clinician recommends it. The funding for the 12 month course applies from November 19.

Minister of Health, Tony Ryall announced today that the National Government now has a contract with the drug supplier Roche and will provide an additional $9 million per year to District Health Boards to be ring-fenced for 12 month courses of Herceptin.

Dr Belinda Scott, breast surgeon and Chair of The New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation’s Medical Advisory Committee, says that the extended Herceptin funding is fantastic news for women with HER2 positive early stage breast cancer, their families and the New Zealand community.

“The bulk of scientific data overwhelmingly supports a 12 month course of Herceptin for those breast cancers for which it is effective. This decision enables clinicians to recommend the 12 month course for those patients they believe it will help without the financial implications that this decision has previously raised” she says.

The Foundation’s Executive Trustee, Heather Shotter is praising the Government’s prioritizing of the Herceptin issue. “Families all over New Zealand have had to mortgage their homes or raise other forms of debt to afford to save the life of a mother, daughter, sister or wife. You can’t put a price on the lives of New Zealand women - the decision to fund a 12 month course of Herceptin means that we don’t have to”.

Breast cancer was the leading cause of death from cancer among females in 2005 (647deaths or 17.1 percent of female cancer deaths), according to the latest statistics available from the Ministry of Health. “HER2 positive breast cancer accounts for around 20 – 25% of those cancers diagnosed or approximately 320 patients per year at a conservative estimate” Dr Scott says.

The New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation will continue to support and review all new data on Herceptin and other breast cancer drug treatments as the information becomes available through clinical trials and from the New Zealand

Breast Cancer Patient Registers which The Foundation is rolling out with District Health Boards around New Zealand.


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