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Five Years Since KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) Funded For Melanoma Patients But Many New Zealanders Still Waiting


1 October 2021, Merck Sharp & Dohme New Zealand Limited (MSD) says it is now five years since the funding of immunotherapy medicines for advanced melanoma (stage four) that had spread throughout the body and this is a milestone for patients. 1

Mr Paul Smith, MSD New Zealand Director, says “In 2016, advanced melanoma patients only had funded access to a 26-year-old chemotherapy treatment but immunotherapy medicines such as KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) were, and still are, changing the face of advanced melanoma cancer treatment worldwide. 2,3

“Over 1,500 advanced melanoma patients have accessed funded immunotherapies over the past five years. We would like to see this funding extended to the adjuvant treatment of patients with stage three melanoma (melanoma removed surgically and with cancer found in the lymph nodes) as these patients have a 44-74 percent chance of the cancer returning within five years.” 4,5

Melanoma New Zealand CEO Andrea Newland, says, “The funding of immunotherapies changed the treatment landscape for patients with advanced melanoma. Funding has given many melanoma patients hope.

“That said, there are many more patients who could benefit from funded immunotherapy – and so we would like to see funding extended to immunotherapy drugs earlier than stage four. New Zealand has the highest melanoma rates in the world and so preventing, detecting and treating melanoma early need to be absolute priorities.” 6

Mr Paul Smith, MSD New Zealand Director, says “MSD has made 10 KEYTRUDA applications to PHARMAC across six types of cancers, but we only have one funding for the treatment of advanced melanoma. We hope this changes soon, with additional funding, as all patients deserve the same opportunity.” 5

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