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KEYTRUDA now registered to treat lung cancer

News Release

KEYTRUDA now registered to treat lung cancer

August 29th 2016, MSD today announced that its anti-PD1 immunotherapy KEYTRUDA®(pembrolizumab) has been registered by Medsafe for New Zealand patients who have previously been treated for advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and whose tumours express the PD-L1 biomarker.

Lung cancer is New Zealand’s biggest cancer killer, accounting for more than 1,600 deaths per year. 1 More people die of lung cancer, than of breast cancer, prostate cancer and melanoma combined.1 NSCLC comprises approximately 70 percent of all lung cancers.2

Paul Smith, MSD New Zealand Director, says, “This registration will be welcome news for patients who have already been treated for NSCLC and whose tumours express more than 1 percent of a protein called PD-L1.

“Like melanoma, which is also treated by KEYTRUDA; there is a significant unmet need for lung cancer; one of the most common and most challenging cancers to treat.

“I would like to congratulate Medsafe for carrying out their review in such a timely manner, which means KEYTRUDA is approved for use. MSD will now be making an application to PHARMAC for funding of KEYTRUDA in this group of patients; as soon as possible. Patients wanting to access KEYTRUDA should seek further advice from their oncologist about the options that are available to them.”

Philip Hope, CEO of Lung Foundation New Zealand, says, “Lung cancer lacks the profile of many other cancers. It is also a major cause of disparity between Maori and non-Maori, as lung cancer rates are four times higher in Maori women and two and a half times higher in Maori men than non-Maori.

“The registration of KEYTRUDA is a fantastic first step, and we hope that PHARMAC will move quickly to make this new treatment available to all New Zealanders with this form of life-threatening non-small cell lung cancer.”


1. Cancer: New registrations and deaths 2012/ Ministry of Health NZ last accessed 25 August 2016
2. 2. Stevens W1, Stevens G, Kolbe J, Cox B Journal of Thorac Oncology 2007 June 2 (6):481-93 Lung cancer in New Zealand: patterns of secondary care and implications for survival

KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) 50mg powder for infusion
KEYTRUDA is a Prescription Only Medicine

Use: In the treatment of a kind of lung cancer called non-small cell lung cancer.
Side effects: Sore throat/discomfort swallowing, reduced red blood cell count, over- or under-active thyroid, decreased appetite, dizziness, headache, cough, shortness of breath, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, itching or redness of the skin or patches of discolouration, rash, joint pain, back pain, muscle pain or weakness, pain or swelling in the extremities, unusual weakness, fevers or chills, fatigue, inflammation of the kidney, colon or lung, liver disease, lesions within the pituitary gland, decreased sodium levels in the blood.

All medicines have risks and benefits. Talk to your doctor to see if KEYTRUDA is right for you.KEYTRUDA is an unfunded medicine. Ask your health professional the cost of the medicine and any other medical fees that may apply. Use only as directed and if symptoms continue or you have side effects, see your doctor, pharmacist, or health professional.

Based on the data sheet prepared 25 August 2016. Marketed by Merck Sharp & Dohme (New Zealand) Limited, Newmarket, Auckland. For additional product information, consult the Consumer Medicine Information (CMI), available on request, phone 0800 500 673 or refer to the Medsafe website

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