PHARMAC has released a proposal to fund Kadcyla (trastuzumab emtansine, T-DM1) for women with advanced HER2 positive breast cancer.

"This is fantastic news for these women," said Libby Burgess, Chair of the Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition (BCAC). "This is one of the drugs that Metavivors petitioned for and marched to parliament about last year. It is a proven treatment that can extend the lives of these women with fewer side effects than currently available drugs."

"To access Kadcyla at the moment, women must pay $9,000 per month’, Burgess explained, "and this puts it beyond the reach of most New Zealanders."

About 20% of women with advanced breast cancer have the HER2 positive sub-type and will benefit from the decision to fund Kadcyla.

Burgess and BCAC Committee members Emma Crowley and Louise Malone, along with breast cancer specialist Sarah Barton, had just finished presenting to the Health Select Committee when they heard the news.

"There are still drugs for other subtypes of breast cancer that need to be funded," said Crowley. "Today we made the case to the Health Select Committee to bring New Zealand’s medicines budget up to a level that would enable us to have the kind of cancer care that women in other countries enjoy."

BCAC’s petition to the Committee called for funding for all of the drugs recommended for advanced breast cancer in the ESO-ESMO guidelines.

The Health Select Committee also heard submissions on petitions from patient advocacy groups representing lung and ovarian cancer, myeloma, leukaemia and the rare disorders Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) and Pompe disease.

All described the needless suffering imposed by New Zealand’s poor access to modern medicines for these conditions and called for an overhaul of PHARMAC, as well a substantial increase in the medicines budget to bring it into line with other OECD countries.

"We need to at least triple the medicines budget if New Zealand is to approach the OECD average," said Malone. "Only then can we have a chance to reduce our appalling breast cancer death rate."

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