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Herceptin decision disappointing

Jackie Blue MP National Party Associate Health Spokeswoman

16 February 2006

Herceptin decision disappointing

National's Associate Health spokeswoman, Dr Jackie Blue, is disappointed by Pharmac's statement today that it will not broaden its subsidy for Herceptin to include women with early breast cancer.

"Pharmac's suggestion that the drug is unsafe and international trial data 'incomplete' prejudges the Medsafe assessment. It could have referred its concerns to its specialist cancer committee, but it didn't," says Dr Blue, herself a breast physician.

"It is puzzling that Pharmac considered the trial data 'incomplete' because Herceptin has been evaluated in four trials involving 13,000 women.

"It speaks volumes that places like France, Canada, Italy and United Kingdom are coming on board funding this drug for women with early stage breast cancer.

"These places would not have approved the use of Herceptin without the drug being thoroughly assessed and scrutinised. Herceptin has already been evaluated and is used by women in New Zealand with advanced breast cancer.

"I am extremely confident that Pharmac's concerns regarding the safety of the drug will be addressed.

"Time is of the essence for these women. Quite understandably, women with aggressive, Herceptin-responsive breast cancers don't want to wait for the cancer to spread to their liver, lungs, bones or brain before they can get access to it.

"This is a drug with the potential to save lives. Pharmac must factor in the human toll of its decision, and it's extremely frustrating that the decision could now mean that the funding decision will be delayed," says Dr Blue.


 Scoop graphic by Lyndon Hood.ALSO: Scoop Report - Will Herceptin Media Blitz Help Or Harm Patients?In the last few days there has been a powerful media and political campaign pushing the benefits of the new cancer drug Herceptin. The editor of North and South magazine, Robyn Langwell, devoted her March 2006 editorial to outlining the plight of women who were attempting to raise enough money to undergo a course of Herceptin. Ms Langwell railed in her editorial at the 'tight fisted holders of the Pharmac purse' who she considered were responsible for cancer sufferers being forced to mortgage their homes and beg for money to fund their non Pharmac subsidised treatment.

  • BCAC - Advocacy Group Disappointed by PTAC Decision
  • PHARMAC - PTAC has first view of trastuzumab (herceptin)
  • PHARMAC - Medsafe, PHARMAC With Different Roles In Medicine
  • United Future - PHARMAC's role in breast cancer drug debate
  • National - Human toll must be factored in Herceptin decision
  • Roche NZ - Position Statement Regarding Herceptin
  • ENDS

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