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PHARMAC steps up to help meet Government cancer treatment g

7 December 2012

Media release

PHARMAC steps up to help meet Government cancer treatment goal

Recent decisions by PHARMAC will have a positive effect on cancer treatment in New Zealand.

PHARMAC has removed the Special Authority funding requirements from seven cancer treatments, and from the diabetes treatment pioglitazone. Special Authorities define the clinical criteria patients must meet to receive some funded medicines. Clinicians must complete a Special Authority application and receive approval before prescribing in order for the patient to receive the funded medicine.

PHARMAC’s medical director Dr Peter Moodie, says the lifting of these funding restrictions is a positive step.

“Removing the Special Authorities from these cancer treatments will significantly reduce administrative demands on the hospital oncologists and haematologists who routinely prescribe these drugs,” says Dr Moodie.

“In addition, one of the medicines being de-restricted is capecitabine, a tablet which can be used in place of 5-flourouracil, a chemotherapy infusion that patients need to receive in hospitals or special treatment centres. Patients prescribed capecitabine will have a more convenient treatment option which they can take at home and this is particularly helpful for rural people and reduces their costs of receiving treatment.

“Removing the Special Authority restrictions will also free up hospital resources that can be used to treat more patients overall, which will help DHBs achieve the Government health priority to reduce cancer treatment waiting times.”

The medicines having Special Authority funding requirements removed are:

o Anagrelide hydrochloride – primarily used to treat thrombothycaemia (overproduction of platelets)

o Gemcitabine hydrochloride - used to treat a variety of cancers including bladder, breast, pancreas, lymphoma, lung and ovarian cancer.

o Irinotecan - primarily used to treat bowel and pancreatic cancer.

o Oxaliplatin - primarily used to treat bowel, pancreas and stomach cancer.

o Vinorelbine - primarily used to treat lymphoma, lung and breast cancer

o Capecitabine – primarily used to treat breast, bowel and stomach cancer

o Octreotide – primarily used in cancer for endocrine tumours and for palliation of symptoms in patients with malignant bowel obstruction.

Overall, removing the Special Authorities from these medicines will reduce the number of applications by about 4000 per year.

The Special Authorities were removed from these treatments from 1 December 2012 meaning that they are now fully funded by DHBs for any cancer patients. In addition, capecitabine is funded for any patient in the community when prescribed by a specialist.

Dr Moodie says that making access easier, such as by removing Special Authorities, usually results in more patients being prescribed the treatment.

“Effectively, this means we are giving doctors treating cancer greater discretion in how they choose to treat their patients, in the knowledge that it will be funded for them.”

Pioglitazone is a treatment that increases the body’s sensitivity to insulin, and is mainly used to treat Type 2 diabetes.

As with the cancer treatments, the Special Authority on pioglitazone was removed from 1 December.


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