Pharmac decision puts cancer patients at risk - Cancer Society

  • 03/12/2015
Claire Austin (Paul Henry)
Claire Austin (Paul Henry)

Pharmac has given the breakthrough melanoma drug Pembrolizumab a “low” priority – effectively meaning it won’t get funded.

This is the fourth time funding has been declined for a melanoma treatment by Pharmac.

It's a huge blow for melanoma patients, some of whom are paying up to $300,000 to receive the drug for two years.

It is state-funded in Australia and the UK.

Nearly one Kiwi a day dies from Melanoma.

The drug has been shown to reduce tumour size in 70 percent of patients and eradicate it in 10 percent.

Cancer society chief executive Claire Austin joined Paul Henry to talk about the impact the decision will have.

She said it puts New Zealand’s cancer treatments out of step with those around the world.

A Pharmac spokesman said that even though the committees considered it to be a drug with promise, there was uncertainty over the magnitude and durability of the benefits it provided for patients.

"We are going to keep talking with the company [Pembrolizumab supplier Merck, Sharp and Dohme] on ways in which we might fund it."