Pharmac issues RFP for intravenous trastuzumab, a medicine used to treat breast cancer

Media release Medicines

Te Pātaka Whaioranga – Pharmac is seeking commercial bids from pharmaceutical suppliers for the supply of intravenous trastuzumab, a ‘biologic’ medicine currently funded to treat New Zealanders with breast cancer.

Trastuzamab Request for Proposals (RFP)

“We have funded intravenous trastuzumab (branded as Herceptin) since 2007,” says Pharmac’s Director of Operations, Lisa Williams. “We will continue to fund this treatment however, because there are now multiple suppliers of biosimilar versions of intravenous trastuzumab available, we are required to run open, fair and transparent competitive processes for supply of this medicine.”

“Biologics are among the most expensive medicines that Pharmac funds, with expenditure on trastuzumab (branded as Herceptin) in the top 5 gross medicines costs for reimbursed medicines in 2021.”

“Issuing a request for proposals (RFP) will secure ongoing supply of intravenous trastuzumab and ensure we’re getting the best pricing for it. The RFP could result in either a change of the funded brand or in the existing brand being secured.”

Dr Richard Isaacs, a Medical Oncologist and member of Pharmac’s Cancer Treatments Advisory Group, supports Pharmac’s plan to issue an RFP for intravenous trastuzumab. “The medical oncology community in New Zealand would be supportive of funding of a trastuzumab biosimilar should that be the outcome of the RFP,” says Dr Isaacs. “A number of these agents have been extensively tested and shown to have the same mechanisms of action and activity as the original compound. This RFP process could result in significant savings that would allow Pharmac to fund other, currently unavailable, therapies.”

Ms Williams concludes, “A key reason we run RFPs is to consider where we can make savings from our medicines budget, so we can fund more treatments. This is the Pharmac model in action – funding more medicines for more New Zealanders, by negotiating great deals with our suppliers.”

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Through the RFP, Pharmac may award Principal Supply Status (PSS) to a supplier for a period of three years.

The award of PSS means that the successful supplier’s trastuzumab product would be the principal funded brand of intravenous trastuzumab and would be guaranteed at least 95% of the funded intravenous trastuzumab market.

Trastuzumab was initially funded for the treatment of metastatic HER2+ breast cancer, with no limit to treatment duration where the disease continues to respond to treatment. In July 2007 access was widened to include the treatment of early HER2+ breast cancer.

Australia has funded biosimilar versions of trastuzumab(external link) since 2019. The intravenous trastuzumab biologic product (Herceptin) was removed from the Australian subsidised medicine list by the supplier, Roche, in 2021.

Pronunciation guide

Trastuzumab – Trass-two-zoo-mab