9 Jun 2016

Pharmac reveals new drug funding list

7:35 pm on 9 June 2016

Pharmac will fund six new treatments, after the government gave it an extra $124 million over four years in May's Budget.

Blister packs containing tablets.

Photo: AFP

The money will go toward new drugs for the treatment of advanced melanoma and hepatitis C, as well as the kidney condition nephrotic syndrome in children.

It will also fund patches for menopausal women and a new treatment for brain tumours.

Pharmac chief executive Steffan Crausaz said the first of the treatments - Opdivo (nivolumab) for advanced melanoma, rituximab for nephrotic syndrome in children, and Harvoni and Viekira Pak for hepatitis C - would be available from the start of July.

Oestradiol patches for menopausal women would be available from August, and temozolomide for brain tumours would be available from December.

Read the full statement from Pharmac

The funding decisions were aimed at helping over 40,000 people each year, Mr Crausaz said.

Pharmac had decided to fund Opdivo instead of another melanoma drug, Keytruda, because of concerns about the evidence supporting the latter treatment, he said.

"If we're going to be investing tens of millions of dollars in a new treatment, we want to be convinced it's going to do what we all hope.

"With nivolumab [Opdivo], looking at the data and getting advice from the experts that advise us, we have that confidence we're going to see survival gains, people are going to live longer as a result of receiving this treatment."

Mr Crausaz told Checkpoint with John Campbell the two drugs for treating hepatitis C were very new.

"Hepatitis C in its end stages can be really devastating, and this treatment cures the virus in most people, and basically gets rid of all of that effect and lets people move on. I think it's such a great result for New Zealand patients."

Hepatitis C has been estimated to affect 50,000 New Zealanders, half of whom are undiagnosed.

Pharmac welcomed the input of the health sector, and the public when making its funding decisions, Mr Crausaz said.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said the new treatments would make a considerable difference to the lives of many.

The funding decisions showed Pharmac was continuing to provide New Zealanders with early access to new innovative medicines, he said.