Pharmac proposes widening access to a brain cancer treatment to help reduce the impact of a discontinuation

Media release Medicines

Decision announced

Following this consultation, we have made a decision on the access to these brain cancer treatments

Te Pātaka Whaioranga – Pharmac is proposing to widen access to temozolomide, an oral anti-cancer treatment, for people with a type of brain cancer called glioma. This comes as lomustine, the current treatment option for people with low grade or relapsed/recurrent gliomas is being discontinued.

“Since the supplier of lomustine told us that it is stopping production of its product, branded as CeeNU, we have been working to find alternative options as we’re aware there would be a high unmet health need for the people affected,” says Pharmac’s Director Pharmaceuticals, Geraldine MacGibbon.

“While we haven’t been able to secure an alternative supply of lomustine, we have received clinical advice from our Cancer Treatments Advisory Committee that temozolomide, another oral anti-cancer medicine, would be an appropriate treatment for people with glioma, given the discontinuation.”

CeeNU is the only brand of lomustine with Medsafe approval in New Zealand. With current usage, stock is expected to be depleted by mid-2024.

“Historically, lomustine has been funded without any restrictions but our expert advisors have told us that it is only used to treat people with gliomas. We want to hear from the sector and people using this medicine so we can be aware of any other uses of lomustine, and options to manage and support its discontinuation.”

The consultation proposes that from 1 January 2024 use of available lomustine is limited to only people who are already receiving this treatment, in order to ensure availability until their course is complete. 

Each year around 70 people receive treatment with lomustine, of which around 5% are Māori.

“The medicine we’re consulting on widening access to, temozolomide, has been funded for some time for other types of cancer, but for people with gliomas it is only currently funded for newly diagnosed high grade gliomas. We are now proposing that funded access is widened to include people with low grade or relapsed/recurrent gliomas.”

“We are pleased to have a potential plan in place to cover the discontinuation of lomustine. We acknowledge this may not address the full health need arising from this situation, so we welcome feedback on other potential options,” says Ms MacGibbon

Ms MacGibbon would like to reassure the communities affected by this change that Pharmac will be working with healthcare practitioners and community groups to reduce the impact of the lomustine discontinuation and will share more information as it is available.

Pronunciation guide

Temozolomide – tem-oh-zohl-oh-mide

Lomustine – low-must-een