Keytruda gets the middle finger as Pharmac gets more money

Access to a drug to fight melanoma could be a step closer, with more funding in store for the Government’s drug-buying agency.

Pharmac will get an extra $39 million over two years in this year’s Budget, Prime Minister John Key and Health Minister Jonathan Coleman announced this morning.

Pharmac says it’s excited by the boost, and has opened consultation on seven new treatments — including one for melanoma.

No specific drugs were mentioned, but the Government has been under pressure to fund Keytruda or rival Opdivo, touted as wonder-drugs in the fight against melanoma. New Zealand has the worst rates of the cancer in the world.

“Pharmac will be the sole decision-maker of what those drugs are,” says Mr Key. “The Government in no way wants to interfere with the independence of Pharmac, but it is giving it greater optionality by providing it more funding.”

Pharmac is consulting on nivolumab, marketed as Opdivo, in the same treatment class as Keytruda.

Opdivo has been approved for use against melanoma by New Zealand’s medicines regulator MedSafe.

“We’ve taken the data package for Opdivo through our clinical experts and they’ve advised us the clinical data is of good quality, well-structured and gives greater confidence that there is a survival gain for patients that receive it,” Pharmac chief executive Steffan Crausaz says.

Trying to force government into Keytruda through lobbying the Labour party to run a damaging campaign has come back to bite.  

“Pharmac works within a fixed budget and has to make tough decisions. It looks for the best health gains for the greatest number of New Zealanders.”

Last year, more than 70,000 New Zealanders benefited from 41 new medicines. Around 3.5 million New Zealanders got a funded medicine in 2014/15.

Mr Crausaz says the consultation follows today’s pre-Budget announcement.

“This increase comes after a robust medicines budget process, during which Pharmac advised that there are a number of good medicine funding opportunities, to significantly increase health outcomes for New Zealanders,” Mr Crausaz.

The seven drugs up for consultation are:

  • nivolumab (Opdivo) for advanced melanoma
  • Harvoni and Viekira Pak for hepatitis C infection
  • azithromycin for bronchiectasis in children
  • temozolomide for brain tumours and neuroendocrine tumours
  • rituximab for nephrotic syndrome in children
  • oestradiol patches for menopausal women.

Take that Keytruda.  Next time you might consider using people who can get the job done, instead of Mr 7% and his failing union-driven political mess of a party.

 

– Newshub


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

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