7 May 2017

Range of drugs gain funding under Budget

1:43 pm on 7 May 2017

Drug-buying agency Pharmac is set to get a four-year $60 million boost, allowing it to fund new drugs including for HIV, lung cancer, Hepatitis C - and insomnia medicine for young people.

Jonathan Coleman during caucus run 1/03/16.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The government announced the Budget funding boost this morning.

At the same time, Pharmac released its draft plan for new drugs to be publicly funded from July.

The list includes a new medicine to fight an aggressive form of lung cancer, earlier access to HIV anti-retrovirals, a new insomnia medicine for children and teenagers, and a potential cure for people suffering from Hepatitis C.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said 33,000 people would benefit from the new drugs being subsidised.

Dr Coleman said more than 109,000 New Zealanders had benefited from 62 new and widened access subsidised medicines in the past two years.

He said figures showed about 3.5 million New Zealanders received a funded medicine in 2016-17, a figure which had increased by 100,000 over the past three years.

However, Labour party health spokesperson David Clark said the move was a backdown from the government's previous statements that Pharmac was adequately funded.

Dr Clark said that while Labour welcomed more money for medicines, funding should not come from the cash-strapped District Health Boards.

He pointed out that while the government is putting an extra $60 million into Pharmac over four years, it also announced DHBs would also be contributing more to the agency.

Dr Clark said Labour would restore the $1.7 billion the government had cut from health funding.

Pharmac's new list of drugs and treatments was expected to be finalised by the beginning of July after public consultation:

New Medicines:

  • Melatonin (Circadin) modified-release tablets for children and adolescents with neurodevelopmental disorders who have insomnia
  • Pemetrexed injection for the treatment of mesothelioma, an aggressive form of lung cancer caused primarily by inhalation of asbestos fibres and for first-line and second-line treatment of people with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)
  • Roxithromycin dispersible tablets (Rulide D) would be funded for children under the age of 12 years
  • Sildenafil injection would be funded in hospitals for the treatment of pulmonary hypertension in children
  • Ivabradine tablets would be funded in hospitals for use prior to computed tomography coronary angiography.

Changes to Existing Treatment Access:

  • Earlier access to HIV anti-retrovirals treatment for people with HIV infection: 21 treatments of which any 4 per patient are subsidised from across non-nucleosides reverse transcriptase inhibitors, nucleosides reverse transcriptase inhibitors, protease inhibitors and strand transfer inhibitors
  • Azithromycin tablets (Apo-Azithromycin, Zithromax) a macrolide antibiotic (with anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties) access to treatment for non-cystic fibrosis bronchiectasis in children.
  • Lamivudine (Zeffix), tablets an anti-viral agent that is highly active against hepatitis B virus (HBV) available for prophylaxis of hepatitis B reinfection in immunocompromised patients receiving rituximab-based chemotherapy.
  • Ledipasvir and sofosbuvir (Harvoni) tablets for patients with chronic hepatitis C with advanced disease at an earlier stage
  • Erlotinib (Tarceva) and gefitinib (Iressa) tablets for patients with non-small cell lung cancer to switch between treatments at any time due to intolerance
  • Nivolumab (Opdivo) and pembolizumab (Keytruda) injection for advanced melanoma amended to add a requirement for patients to have an ECOG performance status score of 0-2 to assist clinicians in better identifying treatment options for patients
  • Thalidomide (Thalomid) capsules for the treatment of multiple myeloma would be available closer to home via any community pharmacy, rather than only from a hospital pharmacy
  • Lenalidomide (Revlimid) capsules for relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma with progressive disease new 15 mg capsule strength to support optimal dosing for those patients transitioning from a 25 mg dose to a 10 mg dose.
  • Midazolam injection for people experiencing a sustained epileptic seizure (status epilepticus) able to be carried in doctors' bags or given in surgeries in urgent situations
  • Infliximab (Remicade) injection use in hospitals to include treatment of neurosarcoidosis and Behçet's disease, and changes to criteria for use in ocular inflammation
  • Enoxaparin (Clexane) injection to include use during home haemodialysis.

Dr Coleman said the new drugs would in some cases save lives, and in others would dramatically improve quality of life for patients and their families.

He said Pharmac's model for increasing subsidided medicines and treatments is world-class.

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