Pharmac announces medicines bundle to provide more treatment options for New Zealanders

Media release Medicines

Te Pātaka Whaioranga – Pharmac is considering funding two medicines as part of a new bundle agreement that would offer new treatment options for people experiencing schizophrenia and for people with one type of blood cancer.

In the consultation issued today, Pharmac is seeking feedback on proposals to:

  • fund paliperidone three-monthly (branded as Invega Trinza) for people with schizophrenia
  • fund ibrutinib (branded as Imbruvica) for people with relapsed/refractory chronic lymphocytic leukaemia following treatment with venetoclax.

“Following the budget increase announced in May 2022, we are working our way through our options for investment list,” says Pharmac’s chief medical officer Dr David Hughes. “We are grateful to be in a position to progress the funding of more treatments for these important therapeutic areas.”

“Pharmac currently funds paliperidone one-monthly (Invega Sustenna) and is now consulting on funding the three-monthly version (Invega Trinza) for schizophrenia. Our clinical advisors have told us that people who meet the eligibility criteria would benefit from the three-monthly treatment as it could reduce relapses, carer burden, and the frequency of hospital admissions. We estimate that over the next five years over 1,500 people would benefit from this treatment.”

Dr Rees Tapsell, director of clinical services at Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand Waikato, is supportive of this proposal, stating that longer-acting treatments, like paliperidone three-monthly, are known to improve quality of life. “The reduced frequency of medication administration enables people to focus on recovery rather than adherence and frees up secondary care services,” says Dr Tapsell. “This could reduce the overall burden of schizophrenia on many Kiwis and their whānau, especially for Māori who are affected by this condition more than non-Māori.”

“Ibrutinib is an anticancer medicine, which can reduce the likelihood of progression and improves survival for people with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Ibrutinib works differently to the currently funded treatment venetoclax, so our clinical advisors have recommended it for funding when venetoclax is not effective or intolerable. Ibrutinib is taken as an oral pill daily so it’s a very accessible option and we estimate that in the first year, approximately 30 people would be eligible for funding, increasing to around 100 people after five years following.  

This consultation has been sent to health professionals, patient groups and others who Pharmac thinks would be interested. It is available on the Pharmac website for anyone wanting to have their say.

“Consultation is a very important step in our process,” says Dr Hughes. “It’s how we check that the people who will get the most benefit from the medicines will be able to access them. If approved, we will also be working closely with our colleagues across the health sector to plan for the implementation of these treatments.”

If approved, funding for both paliperidone and ibrutinib would commence 1 December 2022.

Pronunciation guide

Ibrutinib – Eye- BROO-ti-nib

paliperidone – pal-ee-PER-i-done