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Potential For New And Expanded Myeloma Medicines Positive For Patients, But It’s Not Enough

“We are very pleased Pharmac has today announced consultation for the supply of lenalidomide and pomalidomide to treat multiple myeloma cancer,” says Nichola Oakenfull, Trustee of Myeloma New Zealand.

“Lenalidomide is already available to myeloma patients who meet particular treatment criteria. This proposal expands access to more patients so it is good news. In addition, the prospect of pomalidomide as a new, funded treatment is also positive, as it is ten years since a new myeloma medicine has been funded in New Zealand.”

“Some patients are privately funding lenalidomide or pomalidomide, including importing these medicines from overseas. There will be a number of families around the country keeping their fingers crossed that this will change soon.”

“We strongly encourage everyone in the myeloma community to read the consultation document and provide their feedback. Pharmac has indicated it is keen to get feedback about the proposal and how to successfully introduce these medicines, whether that is the about the information patients require or the language used to present it.

“While today’s announcement is exciting, we remain concerned about how long it takes to get medicines funded in New Zealand. The application for lenalidomide for first line treatment was submitted in April 2016; the application for pomalidomide was submitted even earlier, in November 2015. We do not understand why it takes so long for New Zealanders to get access to medicines that are standard of care overseas and hope the government and Pharmac do everything in their power to improve on this”.

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“We aren’t just slipping behind other countries - there is an ocean between us, literally and figuratively. Even if this proposal goes ahead, two other critical myeloma treatments, daratumumab and carfilzomib, will still remain on Pharmac’s Options for Investment (OFI) list, and there are other treatments that haven’t even made it onto the OFI.

“The continuing lack of access to daratumumab is particularly concerning. The application for this was submitted over six years ago (in November 2017) and we are aware some clinical trials cannot be run here because a prerequisite is that patients have been treated with daratumumab.”

Myeloma is New Zealand’s second most common blood cancer and there is a desperate need for modern and better medicines to be funded for the approximately 3000 myeloma patients. Patients are dying unnecessarily because they do not have access to treatments which are standard of care overseas and in private treatment in New Zealand. Myeloma New Zealand has been running a “Keep Us Living” campaign for over a year and a half to draw attention to the pitiful availability of funded medicines to treat this cancer. Australia currently funds five more medicines than New Zealand, this proposal will put us four behind – it’s heartbreaking for patients and families to know we are so far behind.

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