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Breast and prostate cancer patients in crossfire

Breast and prostate cancer patients caught in crossfire

Breast and prostate cancer patients will be the losers if Pharmac plays off drug companies Abbot Laboratories and AstraZeneca against each other, says National’s Associate Health spokeswoman, Dr Jackie Blue.

Last week, Abbot Laboratories agreed to a 20% reduction in price and subsidy for its prostate cancer drug Lucrin, in return for Pharmac listing Abbot's arthritis drug.

Now, Pharmac has put pressure on AstraZeneca to match the 20% reduction for its drug Zoladex, which is used both in breast and prostrate cancer treatment.

AstraZeneca considers the proposition commercially unviable and has withdrawn Zoladex off the market completely.

“The real concern is that Lucrin may not be clinically equivalent to Zoladex and that this concern has not been assessed by Pharmac’s expert cancer committee,” says Dr Blue.

“If Lucrin is the last drug standing, Pharmac must give absolute assurance to the 5000 breast and prostate cancer patients diagnosed each year that Lucrin or an alternative stacks up to close scrutiny.

“While playing off the drug companies may be considered good business practice, it is not acceptable that patients end up with a possibly inferior medication, or that different patient groups are played off against each other.

“To eliminate any doubt, this matter must be sorted out by Pharmac’s expert cancer committee and they must release all submissions from expert clinicians regarding these two drugs,” says Dr Blue.


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