Breast Cancer Foundation slams Pharmac's funding exclusions

Breast screening (file)
Breast screening (file)

The Breast Cancer Foundation says Pharmac is "heartless" for excluding Kiwis who've already been diagnosed with advanced breast cancer from its latest funding scheme.

Pharmac's announced a major funding package with Pharmaceutical company Roche which includes Perjeta - a game-changing medicine for women with advanced (metastatic) HER2+ breast cancer.

However, it's only funded for women diagnosed from January next year - and 160 New Zealanders are currently battling the terminal disease.

Perjeta is taken with Herceptin, but Pharmac has decided existing Herceptin patients can’t have it.

The Breast Cancer Foundation's chief executive Van Henderson says the funding model is "heartless".

"It is a bit of a cop-out and certainly in Australia they funded this combination with Perjeta 18 months ago, and they offered women who are already were on [it] to go on combination therapy," she says.

"Yes, it's good news [over all] but also a really bitter pill for those people who already diagnosed and have already started their treatment, and they won't be able to go on to use Perjeta. Or they can use Perjeta but they'll have to pay for it."

The foundation says the Herceptin-Perjeta combination is acknowledged internationally as the standard of care for advanced HER2+ breast cancer.

Ms Henderson says Australia government-funded the drug for current and future sufferers of the disease over a year ago.

Pharmac Acting Chief Executive, Sarah Fitt, told Newshub that while the drug brand pertuzumab is registered in New Zealand for use of a combination treatment for patients, they must not have received prior treatment for their metastatic disease.

"Pharmac needs further clinical advice to help inform our decision making.

"We've asked our expert clinical advisers to consider the use of pertuzumab for those who have already had other treatment for their metastatic disease. We expect to get this advice in early 2017."