Looks like another Labour policy is gone as government proposes funding Keytruda

The government has gazzumped Labour by authorising Pharmac to part-fund Keytruda, and all without having to entertain Big Pharma in their offices like Labour did.

Melanoma patients are likely to get a second drug treatment option under a new proposal to provide state funding of Keytruda.

Pharmac, the Government’s drug funding agency, has today issued a consultation document proposing to pay for Keytruda from September 1.

This follows Pharmac’s earlier decision to fund Keytruda’ rival Opdivo from this Friday. Both are high-cost cancer drugs in a new class of immunotherapy medicines, called PD-1 inhibitors which are extending the lives of some advanced-melanoma patients who have no other treatment options.

Pharmac says in the consultation notice on its website that it has “now reached a commercially favourable provisional agreement” with the maker of Keytruda (pembrolizumab), Merck Sharp and Dohme, and is seeking feedback on the proposal, which also involves two other drugs. ? Read more »

Key absolutely destroys Little over Pharmac, Keytruda and the TPP

The major objection about the TPP was that Pharmac would have more expenses buying drugs.

Key said he?d give them more money – individuals would not pay more at the Chemist. ?Check.

The Keytruda people and Little got together to run a big campaign against Key as an uncaring bastard letting people die of cancer.

Well, that lunch cost the Keytruda idiots dearly as the contract has gone to a competitor. ?People get a melanoma drug. ?Check. ??Your move, Andy.

Drug-buying agency Pharmac has confirmed funding for advanced skin cancer drug, Opdivo, following a public outcry over a lack of options for melanoma sufferers.

In December, Pharmac announced it would not fund melanoma drug pembrolizumab, also known as Keytruda, saying there was not enough evidence to show it works.

Melanoma campaigners have been calling for funding for new treatments, and Pharmac today announced nivolumab (brand name Opdivo) will be fully funded from July 1.

It follows extra funding from the Government in this year’s Budget. ? Read more »


Dompost Editorial on Pharmac

The Dompost editorial considers Pharmac:

The Government is right to give Pharmac a funding boost. The state drug-buyer has been squeezed in recent years. It faces new cost pressures, including those coming from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. Most importantly, it is starting to grapple with a flood of exciting but costly new drugs, notably for cancer.

So it needs more money and it will get an extra $39 million a year. Some of that seems destined to go on a promising drug that treats advanced melanoma, whose sufferers have previously had no publicly-funded drugs available to them.

Over the past year, they ran a powerful campaign arguing for such a medicine, after Pharmac judged one drug, Keytruda, a “low priority” for funding. They will understandably be delighted at the news.

All feeling people will be pleased for them too. But New Zealanders should also be wary about exactly how this decision was made. Was it made purely on the evidence, and by comparing the drug’s costs and merits with all the others competing for Pharmac funding ? or was it a capitulation to public pressure?

We should fervently hope it was the former. The new melanoma drugs are undoubtedly promising, but there have been concerns over a lack of evidence of their long-term effectiveness.

Read more »


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. ? Read more »

Orchestrated pimping of the sick and Labour are part of it

The Sunday Star-Times has busted drug companies orchestrating and manipulating sick people to push their drugs onto the public, and reap millions in taxpayer funding.

Worse, it appears Labour are all party to it….working closely with Big Pharma.

New Zealand is the new?battleground where drug giants and their?political bedmates are turning their fire?on an?independent?drug-buying agency.

A furious political row is brewing as drug companies reaping millions of dollars are advising patients to go cap in hand to the public, to fund high-cost medicines is a slick new website aimed at pushing just one drug:?Keytruda.

It advises patients to look at crowdfunding?on Givealittle and public awareness, ACC and insurance as options to pay for the drug ??which costs $2360 for a 50mg vial.

A Keytruda search on Givealittle shows 16 such pleas for the goodwill of strangers, with more than $365,000 donated between them. ? ? Read more »


Kerre McIvor on drugs

If my child was dying of a disease and there was a drug that could help her live longer and it wasn’t a drug funded by the government, you bet your bottom dollar I’d be out there fighting to get that drug on the Pharmac list.

I’d be organising petitions, lobbying parliamentarians and doing all I could to get my child’s drug funded.

That’s what parents are supposed to do for their kids. Fight for them.

And to hell with all the theoretical niceties, such as those arguments that say we have a limited amount of money therefore Pharmac must make funding decisions based on the cost-effectiveness of the drugs; the arguments that say if we fund this drug for your child, we cannot fund that drug for my husband; the arguments that say there are other lifesaving drugs, with better clinical trial results, ahead of your chosen drug on the Pharmac schedule.

Those arguments wouldn’t mean a thing if a family member or a close friend was suffering.

So I can understand why people with melanoma and those who love them are lobbying so intensively to get Keytruda (pembrolizumab) on the taxpayer-funded drugs list. Keytruda has been labelled a wonder drug by those who have responded well to it, but Pharmac says it fails on the cost-effectiveness scale: the clinical results aren’t definitive and the drug is too expensive.

I would hate to be one of the decision-makers at Pharmac. It’s basically playing God with people’s lives. Put a drug on the list, and a life is saved. Keep it off the list, and people must resort to sausage sizzles and Give a Little fundraising. Read more »


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. ?? Read more »

Hooton on Labour’s Keytruda advocacy

Matthew Hooton looks at Labour’s new-found advocacy for Big Pharma.

Labour?s health policy czar, Annette King, has a legendary and probably justified aversion to drug companies. Not for nothing has the industry earned a reputation similar to that of tobacco, armaments, fast food and Big Sugar.

As health minister, Ms King wouldn?t even meet the drug companies or the ?patient advocacy groups? they fund. She judged ? again, probably correctly ? that such meetings were cynical lobbying efforts to increase government spending on their particular products.

With the exception of a multiple sclerosis drug early in her term as minister, Ms King, whose medical background is as a school dental nurse, made a commitment she would not substitute her own clinical judgment for that of the experts at the government?s drug-buying agency, Pharmac.

Perhaps only Finance Mminister Bill English, another former health minister, has been as staunch an advocate for Pharmac as Ms King and for good reason: There is no doubt the agency and the model under which it operates save the taxpayer and economy a bundle that is reinvested in other health services.

Read more »

Now this is interesting regarding Keytruda, Pharmac and the Big Pharma push to fund drugs

Labour have mired themselves in some clever and active Big Pharma lobbying…where they have ended up pushing the agenda of a Big Pharma company which is busily ramping up sympathy for suffering that their drugs just happen to alleviate. Big Pharma have?paid the airfares and expenses and, I would suggest, also helped coordinate the petitions. They’ve met with Labour and briefed them. Then?miraculously, conveniently all of this has met with a coincidental confluence of events leading to mass media coverage to try to shame the government into picking winners and also losers. It is a win/win for the opposition…except when inconvenient facts start making their way into the public arena.

We all know that Merck, Sharp and Dohme were busted making therapeutic claims about Keytruda when they shouldn’t have, and now they are subject to scrutiny in the US for essentially over-charging for their treatments by sneaky packaging.

Most shoppers wouldn’t buy a gallon of milk if they thought they could only drink a pint’s worth. So why are hospitals and clinics buying larger amounts of cancer therapies than they can use, forcing them to throw these expensive drugs in the trash?

The answer, according to a new study, is that many of the top cancer drugs in the United States are only available in single-dose vials, and often that dose is more than the average patient needs. The result is an estimated $3 billion in overspending in the health care system each year, a cost that gets passed on to taxpayers and patients. ?? Read more »

Kevin Hague slips a knife between Labour’s ribs

The Greens and Kevin Hague have seen an opportunity and taken it, slipping a knife into Andrew Little’s ribs in the wake of revelations Labour has been entertaining (and now lobbying for) Big Pharma.

And he is smart enough to issue an apology for some intemperate language before plunging the knife deeper.

Yesterday, melanoma sufferers and their supporters delivered a petition signed by over 11,000 people to Parliament, calling for funding for immunotherapy drug Keytruda.

Mr Hague said he was wrong and insensitive to suggest the sufferers were pawns.

“I don’t regard those people who came to Parliament yesterday as pawns. If I was in their position, I would have done the same thing,” he said.

“In fact, I’ve been on all sides of this issue. When I was the director of the AIDS Foundation, I was frequently in the position of advocating for medicines that Pharmac didn’t currently fund and were above Pharmac’s threshold.” ? Read more »