Pharmac makes cancer treatment available to more people

Media release Medicines

Pharmac has confirmed today they are widening access from 1 September to a targeted cancer treatment, obinutuzumab (branded as Gazyva), for people with a type of blood cancer called indolent non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

“Obinutuzumab is a monoclonal antibody, which helps the body's immune system attack the cancer, meaning the tumour cells are less likely to grow and spread,” says Pharmac’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr David Hughes. “We have funded it for those with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia since 2017 and have had it on our Options for Investment list for indolent non-Hodgkin lymphoma since September 2020.”

“When we consulted in May, we received support for widening access to obinutuzumab, but we also heard that there would be more benefit in widening access even further than we had proposed, to better address the unmet health need.”

Pharmac had originally intended to widen access to obinutuzumab in combination with bendamustine for people with follicular lymphoma and marginal zone lymphoma that has relapsed after, or is resistant to, a rituximab-containing treatment within 6 months.

“Clinicians treating people with indolent non-Hodgkin lymphoma asked Pharmac to widen access to obinutuzumab further than proposed, enabling its use in combination with other chemotherapy treatment, and to include patients who relapse after initial treatment, or who don’t respond to a rituximab-containing treatment within 12 months. We sought further clinical advice from blood cancer specialists on our Cancer Treatments Advisory Committee, who were supportive of these changes. We are pleased today to confirm that we have worked through what these changes mean and have been able to meet that request.”

“Hearing how medicines impact the lives of New Zealanders is really important in helping us understand the value of the medicines we are proposing to fund. That is why we consult, and we are grateful to all those who provided that feedback.”

“We anticipate that around 100 people in the first year would be eligible for treatment under the widened access criteria and around 50 each year after that.”