Science doesn?t back Labour?s promises about Keytruda

Labour has gotten themselves in quite a pickle over Pharmac.

First they told us that the TPPA would destroy Pharmac, then it turned out they were really talking about themselves interfering in clinical decisions.

They were, of course, caught pants-down after a caucus leak about their entertaining Big Pharma and lobbyists shortly before embarking on lobbying the government over Keytruda.

Now it appears the science doesn’t support their claims.

Keytruda is described by many as a miracle cure for melanoma skin cancer, with even the Health Minister admitting it could save more than 100 lives each year.

It’s expensive — but that’s not the only reason Pharmac is still giving it low priority for funding.

“The committees have reviewed the evidence, and in their view Keytruda hasn’t been proven to help people live longer lives,” says Pharmac chief executive Steffan Crausaz.

Pharmac says Keytruda – or pembrolizumab – is shown to have effects on tumours’ size. It says that’s important, but based on the advice it’s getting, a shrinking tumour isn’t always proof the cancer’s gone.

“It’s not certain that that necessarily translates in the end into people living longer and better,” says Mr Crausaz. ??

Oncologist Dr Christopher Jackson disagrees.

“I just have got no idea where he gets that statement from,” says Dr Jackson. “Quite clearly, pembrolizumab and it’s near identical competitor nivolumab have both been shown to improve survival.”

A report from the?New England Journal of Medicine?just last year concluded the drug “prolonged overall survival.”

Pharmac says it’s also investigating another drug called opdivo. It’ll look into it over the next couple of months and expects it to be available soon in New Zealand.

But for some people a matter of months will be too late.

Melanoma is a killer. I know two people who?have died from it. I also know one person who is taking Keytruda now, and not for melanoma.

But there are issues. Merck Sharp and Dohme have had to amend claims in the US and CNN reported about the more than $3 billion wasted each year as a result of dodgy packaging practices by Big Pharma.

While there are questions, Pharmac should proceed with caution and ignore the politicians.


– Newhub