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Funding for new drug for advanced breast cancer welcomed

Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition (BCAC) is delighted to hear that Ibrance (palbociclib) will be funded by PHARMAC from 1 April 2020.

“This will be a huge relief for the hundreds of New Zealand women who are struggling to self-fund this medicine,” says BCAC’s Chair, Libby Burgess. “It’s also great that the manufacturer Pfizer will provide Ibrance free of charge from now until April.”

Ibrance is a CDK 4/6 inhibitor, a type of medicine that gives patients with advanced hormone-receptor positive, HER2-negative breast cancer more time and a better quality of life. Other countries have funded this type of medicine for several years now (Canada since 2016, UK and Scotland since 2017 and Australia since 2018).

Patients with advanced breast cancer require ongoing treatment with a range of medicines to halt the progress of the disease. When one medicine fails, another is used, and treatments are customised to achieve the best outcomes for each patient. Ibrance will be available for use as a ‘first-line’ treatment for those newly diagnosed with advanced breast cancer, and also as a ‘later line’ treatment for those who have already been treated with other medicines but whose cancer has progressed.

“We are absolutely delighted that no-one who could benefit is being left out of this funding proposal,” says Libby.

Pfizer first applied for this medicine to be funded in February 2018. Kiwi women with advanced breast cancer marched to Parliament to present a petition calling for Ibrance to be funded in October 2018.

“We’re pleased that this action has led to positive change,” says Libby, “but it’s a tragedy that so many of those women are now no longer with us.”

Globally there is a huge effort going into cancer research and new discoveries are leading to more and more effective medicines being developed to fight breast and other cancers.

“Cancer kills one in three New Zealanders,” says Libby, “and we need to ensure that we keep up with the rest of the world when it comes to cancer medicines. New Zealanders deserve world-class cancer care, and access to modern medicines is a critical part of that. New Zealand’s current medicines budget is one of the lowest in the OECD and this must change.”

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