Women With Breast Cancer Welcome Extended Funding For Medicine Ibrance
It is fantastic news that funding for a vital drug for women with advanced breast cancer, palbociclib (Ibrance), will cover the costs for all those who need it , Libby Burgess, Chair of the Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition (BCAC) says.
“It’s wonderful that Ibrance will be funded for New Zealand women who have already received other treatments for advanced hormone receptor positive, HER2 negative breast cancer, in addition to those newly diagnosed and about to start their first treatment. It’s a hugely important medicine that halts or slows the progress of this type of cancer, giving women more quality time to live their lives,” Libby says.
Hundreds of women with advanced breast cancer (known as Metavivors) and their supporters marched to Parliament in October 2018 to demand funding for Ibrance.
“When we learned that Pfizer had only applied for funding for those newly diagnosed (which is known as ‘first line’ treatment), we realised that this would leave out the many hundreds of women already diagnosed and being treated with other drugs,” Libby says.
“That would have included all the brave Metavivors who petitioned Parliament back in October 2018 for access to this vital medicine and all of those diagnosed since then. So we immediately began constructing an application seeking access for second and subsequent treatment to provide Ibrance for everyone who would benefit.”
The PHARMAC announcement that funding will cover both first- and later-line treatments is a direct result of that application. “We’re absolutely delighted that PHARMAC has listened to the patient voice and looked at all the evidence to reach the decision to fund Ibrance for everyone,” Libby says.
The application to extend the funding was a formal evidence-based application but BCAC also included personal stories from many Metavivors needing Ibrance.
“It’s great that New Zealand has a system that allows applications from the community, allowing BCAC to put the case for patients in need. One of our key roles is to speak up on behalf of patients, and we work closely in liaison with patients. Our committee are all women who have experienced breast cancer so we understand what is involved. We want women and their families to know they are not alone.”
A BCAC application also led to government funding of fulvestrant (Faslodex), which was announced last December. PHARMAC advises that fulvestrant will be funded by PHARMAC from 1 April 2020. Fulvestrant is an important option in treating advanced oestrogen receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer, the most common subtype affecting around 61% of patients. Fulvestrant will be used as the ‘endocrine partner’ with Ibrance for those who have already been treated for their advanced breast cancer.
BCAC applied for fulvestrant in May 2018, after pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca gave up on their product ever being funded in New Zealand and allowed its Medsafe registration to lapse. The first funding application for fulvestrant went to PHARMAC in 2006, where it remained under consideration for many years.
“It is wonderful to see the Government investing in extending the lives and improving quality of life for women with advanced breast cancer,” Libby says. “However, many more medicines are needed by people with breast cancer and other diseases so we will continue to speak up.”
BCAC is an active member of Patient Voice Aotearoa, a coalition of groups representing a range of diseases. PVA is currently gathering signatures for a petition calling for doubling then tripling NZ’s medicines budget.
“Everyone in New Zealand is affected by disease, either themselves or family members or friends. We all want the best care for people in need and it should be a right as a New Zealander to receive access to the medicines you need.”
Libby says she encourages everyone to sign and support the PVA petition at www.sign4life.nz