Pharmac opens first consultation for cancer medicines after funding boost

Media release Medicines

Pharmac – Te Pātaka Whaioranga is looking to widen access to four medicines as part of the first public consultation following the budget boost.

“We’re excited that we can work towards making more medicines available for people living with cancer from October this year,” says Pharmac’s Director Pharmaceuticals, Geraldine MacGibbon.

The proposal includes two targeted cancer treatments for six different types of cancer that would benefit around 500 New Zealanders in the first year of funding.

“We’re looking to fund pembrolizumab (branded as Keytruda) from 1 October for eligible people with advanced triple negative breast cancer, head and neck cancer, colorectal cancer, bladder cancer and Hodgkin lymphoma, and nivolumab (branded as Opdivo) from 1 November for eligible people with kidney cancer.”

“We’ve heard from lots of people that they’ve wanted to see immunotherapies funded for more people, so we’re really pleased to progress this funding proposal. We know both of these medicines would make a significant difference to people’s lives by slowing the progression of their cancer.”

Libby Burgess, Chair of the Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition says, “It’s fantastic to know that Keytruda could soon be funded for advanced triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). This is the first targeted therapy to be offered to New Zealanders with this aggressive form of the disease. The recent boost in funding for Pharmac to give access to more effective modern medicines will make a huge difference to the lives of many patients and their families."

The proposal would also see access widened to prevent infection in people at risk of invasive fungal infections, from 1 October. The medicines are posaconazole (branded as Posaconazole Juno and Devatis) and voriconazole (branded as Vttack and Vfend).

Consultation on Pharmac’s funding proposal for these medicines is now open and will close on Friday 26 July. Feedback can be emailed to

Following public consultation, a funding proposal will be taken to Pharmac’s Board (or a delegate) for a decision.

The Government provided additional funding to Pharmac in June 2024 to fund new medicines and to widen access to medicines that are already funded. The funding boost covers medicines for both cancer and non-cancer health conditions.

Q&A about the Budget increase

MacGibbon says, “This is the of first of many proposals that we’re working on and we’ll be issuing more consultations over the coming weeks and months. We’re pleased that we can move so quickly to put our budget increase into action to help New Zealanders get the medicines they need."

Media resources

Audio file | Geraldine MacGibbon talks about the consultation [MP3, 1.5 MB]

Video file | Geraldine MacGibbon talks about the consultation –(external link)

 View and download on MS Stream(external link)

Pronunciation guide:

  • pembrolizumab – pem-bro-liz-ew-mab
  • nivolumab – nee-vol-ew-mab
  • posaconazole – poe-sa-kon-a-zole
  • voriconazole – vor-ih-kon-ah-zole