Cancer patients, children, and people with HIV amongst those to benefit from PHARMAC decisions

Media release Medicines

PHARMAC has announced the funding of five new treatments and wider use of over 30 existing treatments, which are set to benefit many New Zealanders from 1 July 2017.

PHARMAC helps New Zealanders live healthier and better lives every day, and this package of medicines is set to help a lot of New Zealanders get the medicines they need, says Sarah Fitt, PHARMAC Director of Operations.

The package covers a wide range of medicines, including new cancer treatments bendamustine for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, medicines for children, and widened access to treatments for HIV and hepatitis C.

“The funding of melatonin for children and adolescents with insomnia will provide relief for over 1,200 families across New Zealand, while roxithromycin dispersible tablets, an antibiotic, will make it easier for parents and caregivers to give this treatment to children," says Ms Fitt.

People with heart conditions will also benefit from the funding announcements, with ivabradine being funded for adults, and sildenafil injection being funded for infants and children in intensive care.

Earlier access to antiretroviral treatments for HIV will make a big difference to patients’ lives and is a step towards reducing HIV transmissions in New Zealand. PHARMAC currently funds 21 antiretrovirals for around 3,000 people and this change widens access so that an additional 135-160 people each year will be started on treatment earlier. Over time this means the majority of people receiving HIV treatment will have started therapy at an earlier stage of their disease.

“Widening access to antiretroviral treatments for HIV mean that people will be able to access these medicines earlier and receive the benefits they offer without having to wait until their illness has reached a certain stage,” says Ms Fitt.

Following the funding of hepatitis C treatment Harvoni in July 2016 for people with end-stage liver disease, PHARMAC has been working on ways to widen access to more people. Changes to the access criteria from 1 July 2017 will see an additional 45 people get access to this major advancement in the treatment for hepatitis C.

“The breadth of the funding package we’ve been able to announce shows the work PHARMAC can do to get the best health benefits across many different areas of medicine,” says Ms Fitt.

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Background information - detailed list of notifications and decisions made

New medicines funded from 1 July 2017

Melatonin (Circadin) modified-release tablets for children and adolescents with neurodevelopmental disorders who have insomnia.
Roxithromycin dispersible tablets (Rulide D) funded for children under the age of 12 years.
Sildenafil injection funded in hospitals for the treatment of pulmonary hypertension in children.
Ivabradine tablets funded in hospitals for use prior to computed tomography coronary angiography.
Bendamustine infusion funded in hospitals for the treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) and indolent non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (iNHL).

Widened access to existing treatment from 1 July 2017

Earlier access to HIV antiretroviral medicines for people with HIV infection: 20 treatments of which any 4 per patient are subsidised from across non-nucleosides reverse transcriptase inhibitors, nucleosides reverse transcriptase inhibitors, protease inhibitors and strand transfer inhibitors.
Azithromycin tablets (Apo-Azithromycin, Zithromax) a macrolide antibiotic (with anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties) access to treatment for non-cystic fibrosis bronchiectasis in children.
Lamivudine (Zeffix) tablets an anti-viral agent that is highly active against hepatitis B virus (HBV) available for prophylaxis of hepatitis B reinfection in immunocompromised patients receiving rituximab-based chemotherapy.
Ledipasvir and sofosbuvir (Harvoni) tablets for patients with chronic hepatitis C with advanced disease at an earlier stage.
Erlotinib (Tarceva) and gefitinib (Iressa) tablets for patients with non-small cell lung cancer to switch between treatments at any time due to intolerance.
Nivolumab (Opdivo) and pembolizumab (Keytruda) infusion for advanced melanoma amended to add a requirement for patients to have an ECOG performance status score of 0-2.
Lenalidomide (Revlimid) new 15 mg capsule strength to support optimal dosing for relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma..
Midazolam injection for people experiencing a sustained epileptic seizure (status epilepticus) able to be carried in doctors’ bags or given in surgeries in urgent situations.
Infliximab (Remicade) infusion use in hospitals to include treatment of neurosarcoidosis and Behçet’s disease, and changes to criteria for use in ocular inflammation.
Enoxaparin (Clexane) injection to include use for home haemodialysis.