Kiwi breast cancer patients denied new 'survival' drug


Pharmac has decided to fund a new cancer-fighting drug, but women with advanced breast cancer have been left devastated.

The life-extending treatment, Perjeta, will be funded from January 1 - but some patients will miss out.

West Coast mum-of-five, Tamara Malone, has advanced HER2-positive breast cancer. She's fighting for all the extra time she can get with her young family.

"I have a three-year-old, I'd love him to remember me, to know me, and to grow up knowing about me," she says.

"And that would make a difference, a year is a long time for someone who has metastatic cancer."

Pharmac has just announced new funding for the inhibitor drug pertuzumab, or Perjeta, which works alongside herceptin to give much better survival outcomes.

But there's a catch.

You'll only qualify if you're newly diagnosed and have not had prior treatment, or are already on the drug through private funding, so Ms Malone misses out.

"Peoples' lives matter. My life matters just as much as somebody who is diagnosed after January 1. I'm still a worthwhile person," she says.

She says she's disappointed and feels discriminated against.

Pharmac says it's due to regulations covered by the Medsafe registration, but in a statement they say they will be taking further clinical advice in February, and they will reconsider funding for people like Ms Malone.

The Breast Cancer Foundation says it's a heartless decision and around 160 patients are being shut out.

"For those women it would be completely heartbreaking to know that they are being denied funding access to this new state of the art drug," says NZ Breast Cancer Foundation chief executive Evangelia Henderson.

"The trials run for this drug were so powerful, the results were so powerful that they stopped the trial and gave all women, even those on the control, they gave them the new drug. So there is no reason to say that we don't have the data."

They're urging Pharmac to also fund the drug for those women who are already diagnosed and undergoing other treatment.