Year in Review: More cancer medicines

Timely access to cancer medicines is important, and our work helps make that happen. In 2019/20, we invested in six new medicines which have helped more than 950 New Zealanders whose lives are being affected by cancer.

These six new medicines included treatments for lung cancer, leukaemia, ovarian cancer and breast cancer, and cost over $12.5 million.

We also widened access to several other medicines which are helping treat people with myeloma, bone marrow cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and melanoma. One of the three new breast cancer medicines is palbociclib (marketed as Ibrance). Libby Burgess, Chair of the Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition (BCAC), says this was fantastic news for people with advanced breast cancer.

“It’s wonderful that Ibrance will be funded for New Zealand women who have already received other treatments for advanced breast cancer, in addition to those newly diagnosed and about to start their first treatment. It’s a hugely important medicine that halts or slows the progress of this type of cancer, giving women more quality time to live their lives,” says Libby.

Along with making more cancer medicines available to New Zealanders, we also recognised the opportunity to speed up the assessment of cancer medicines. We now start our assessment of new funding applications at the same time Medsafe starts its assessment of the quality, safety and efficacy of a new medicine. We estimate this parallel assessment could reduce the time it takes for cancer medicines to be ranked on our options for investment list by 12 to 15 months.

From 1 December 2019, fewer than 50 patients were being treated with the identified medicines. From April 2020, between 170 and 220 patients each month got olaparib, and 300 to 370 patients got palbociclib.
Total number of unique patients by month dispensed new cancer medicines