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Funding decision by PHARMAC disappointing

1 March 2012

Funding decision by PHARMAC disappointing

The Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition (BCAC) expressed some disappointment today (March 1, 2012) at the decision by PHARMAC to fund lapatinib (Tykerb) as an alternative to Herceptin for advanced HER2 positive breast cancer for use as a “first-line” metastatic treatment.

Libby Burgess, chair of BCAC says, “This is a disappointing decision as it will not help the vast majority of patients with advanced HER2 positive breast cancer. The real need for lapatinib is as a “second-line” treatment, to be used after Herceptin, not as an alternative to it.”

Ms Burgess goes on to explain, “This is where the strongest evidence from clinical trials lies, it is the way that our oncologists want to use it and it is a treatment that our women desperately need. Used as a “second-line” treatment lapatinib has the potential to increase the length of life, reduce symptoms and improve the quality of life for these patients.”

Australia funded lapatinib for use as a “second-line” treatment in 2008 but women in New Zealand can still only receive this treatment if they are able to pay for it.

BCAC acknowledges that there may be a few patients who would benefit from first-line use of lapatinib in metastatic HER2-positive breast cancer, for example patients who present with extensive brain metastases. The Coalition therefore supports funding of lapatinib for first-line metastatic use where this is considered the most effective option given the patient’s circumstances.

About the Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition (BCAC)

The Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition (BCAC) is an Incorporated Society with charitable status and is run by breast cancer survivors. The organisation is committed to making world-class detection, treatment and care accessible to all those affected by breast cancer in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

BCAC currently has 32 breast cancer-related member organisations and our key aims are:

• to support and empower those diagnosed with breast cancer, and their family, whanau and friends, by providing information and resources that allow women to make well-informed choices about their treatment and care
• to provide a voice for New Zealand women diagnosed with breast cancer
• to inform and advocate for timely access to world class breast cancer treatments (including surgery, medicines, radiotherapy, management of side-effects, and self–care) as well as psychosocial care throughout New Zealand
• to consult and engage with Māori and Pasifika women to identify and promote breast cancer issues that could improve outcomes in these communities.


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