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Funding of lapatinib ‘no great leap forward’

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For immediate release

2 March 2012

Pharmac funding of lapatinib as first-line treatment for secondary breast cancer ‘no great leap forward’: The New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation

The New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation sees the funding of lapatinib (Tykerb) as a first-line treatment for HER 2 positive breast cancer as no great leap forward for women with the disease.

The weight of scientific evidence supports lapatinib as a second-line treatment; to be used only once the benefits of trastuzumab (Herceptin) have been exhausted. “We would have loved to see lapatinib funded for this use, as it has been in Australia since 2008,” says Evangelia (Van) Henderson, Chief Executive of The New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation. “Unfortunately those women, who are looking to lapatinib to further extend their lives after a course of treatment with Herceptin, will still not be able to gain funding to do this under this new funding arrangement.”

While lapatinib has a potential benefit to a small number of women as a first line therapy, the majority would gain far greater benefit from its funding as a second line therapy , once trastuzumab ceases to be effective. It is here that the Foundation would have preferred to see Pharmac funding.

Lapatinib is beneficial to a small number of women who:
• Have cancer that has spread to their brain
• Are not able to tolerate trastuzumab (Herceptin) or its mode of delivery (intravenous)
• Demonstrate resistance to trastuzumab
• Do not respond to trastuzumab
For these women, the funding of lapatinib as a first-line treatment will be an advantage. For the rest, Pharmac’s announcement will no doubt be disappointing.


ENDS

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