Pharmac widening access to rituximab and zoledronic acid

Media release Medicines

Pharmac is widening access to two medicines, rituximab and zoledronic acid, estimated to benefit 1,750 New Zealanders a year.

“Rituximab is a monoclonal antibody medicine, administered as an intravenous infusion,” says Pharmac’s Director of Operations Lisa Williams. “Riximyo is the main funded brand of rituximab and is a biosimilar rituximab product. It is already funded for a variety of indications, including cancer, autoimmune and hematological conditions.

“Access to Riximyo will widen to include funding for people with severe, rapidly progressing pemphigus or pemphigus that does not respond to systemic corticosteroids. As it is an uncommon disease, we anticipate there will be around fifteen New Zealanders with pemphigus a year who could benefit from rituximab treatment.

“Our clinical advisors and those who responded to our consultation told us about the impact pemphigus can have, with those with the condition often admitted to hospital, sometimes for weeks, while their skin heals. Rituximab treatment will reduce the time in hospital for people with pemphigus and allow them to live their lives. We were really pleased to read the feedback we received through our consultation process, telling us that widening access to rituximab will make a big difference to those with pemphigus, and their whanau.”

Two brands of zoledronic acid (Aclasta and Zoledronic acid Mylan) are currently funded for a variety of indications including cancer and osteoporosis.

“We are widening access to the funding of the Mylan brand of zoledronic acid to include two new uses – to treat symptomatic hypercalcaemia and for prevention of bone loss after spinal cord injury. We will also be funding it for an additional year of treatment for early breast cancer, offering two additional doses. Approximately 1,735 more people a year will benefit from the widened access to zoledronic acid.”

“Pharmac is committed to continuing our work to fund more medicines for more people, delivering the best possible health outcomes for New Zealanders from within our fixed budget,” concludes Ms Williams.


Biosimilar – A biosimilar medicine is a very similar version of a biological medicine (the original medicine is usually called the reference medicine).

More about biosimilars

Pemphigus (phonetic spelling: pem-fi-gus) – Pemphigus is a group of chronic, autoimmune skin diseases that result in blisters in mucous membranes and the skin.

Systemic corticosteroids – synthetic derivatives of the natural steroid, cortisol, produced by the adrenal glands, and have profound anti-inflammatory effects.

Hypercalcaemia (phonetic spelling: hy-per-kal-see-mee-uh) – High levels of calcium in your blood. Hypercalcaemia is most often caused by overactivity in the four tiny glands in the neck (parathyroid glands) or from cancer. Extra calcium in the blood affects many bodily systems. Symptoms of hypercalcaemia range from mild to severe. They may include increased thirst and urination, stomach pain, nausea, bone pain, muscle weakness, confusion and fatigue