Health sector feedback helps make the most of Government funding boost

Media release Medicines

PHARMAC is today announcing funding of six new treatments across important areas of health, including major advancements in the treatment of hepatitis C.

From 1 July 2016, the following treatments will be fully funded (some with access criteria):

  • Harvoni and Viekira Pak for hepatitis C infection
  • Nivolumab (Opdivo) for advanced melanoma
  • Rituximab for nephrotic syndrome in children

The following treatments will also be fully funded (some with access criteria):

  • From 1 August 2016: Oestradiol patches for menopausal women
  • From 1 December 2016: Temozolomide for brain tumours and neuroendocrine tumours

PHARMAC Chief Executive, Steffan Crausaz, says that feedback from the health sector played an important part in these funding decisions, which will benefit over 40,000 people.

“New Zealanders expect different parts of the health system to work in partnership, and it’s very pleasing how well this occurred to finalise these decisions,” says Mr Crausaz.

“We know our decisions have flow-on impacts to other parts of the health system, so consultation feedback is vital to making the best possible decisions to ensure the best possible health outcomes.”

An important area of feedback related to the prescribing of Viekira Pak and Viekira Pak-RBV by primary care, and the importance of good preparation and support for prescribers, given the very new nature of this treatment area.

One important change to note is that from 1 July, specialists will be able to prescribe Viekira Pak and Viekira Pak-RBV for all eligible patients. From 1 October, once additional support has been put in place, Viekira Pak will be funded on prescriptions written by all eligible prescribers, including GPs .

“GP groups highlighted some concerns about the proposed timeframes and the readiness of the primary care sector to support the successful implementation of the change. We’ve taken these concerns on board and will work closely with GPs, the Ministry, suppliers and others to have the right support and systems in place for GP prescribing of Viekira Pak to start from 1 October,” says Mr Crausaz.

More widely, some consultation responses asked for earlier funding of treatments while the consultation period was running; an issue that arises for each and every one of PHARMAC’s funding decisions.

“We acknowledge that people seeking treatment want access as soon as they can, and that waiting is hard,” says Mr Crausaz.

“There is a balance between providing funded access as early as possible, and ensuring that all issues raised by a wide range of parties are carefully considered and changes made to get the high-quality decisions New Zealanders expect.

“We’d like to thank everyone who took the time to provide feedback. The outcomes announced today are a positive reflection of a wide range of parties working together to achieve important outcomes for New Zealand.”

Full details on the final funding decisions will be available on the PHARMAC website on Friday 10 June 2016.

Further information


  • Included in the original package was consultation on the funding of azithromycin for bronchiectasis in children. PHARMAC received a lot of feedback regarding this proposal, and this is being worked through by PHARMAC staff. A decision on the funding of azithromycin is expected to be made following further advice from our clinical advisers. 

Hepatitis C treatments

  • Hepatitis C is a viral infection affecting approximately 50,000 New Zealanders, half of whom are undiagnosed.  Many patients will progress to life-threatening disease, including liver cancer and liver failure.
  • Both of these treatments are a major advancement in the treatment of hepatitis C, with cure rates of more than 90% with as little as 12 weeks treatment.
  • PHARMAC continues to explore more options to widen treatment coverage for those with hepatitis C.
  • PHARMAC is working collaboratively with a number of organisations, including the Ministry of Health, hepatitis specialists and the suppliers of these treatments, to develop training and education resources for general practice.

Melanoma treatment

  • Advanced melanoma is a serious cancer affecting about 350 people each year across New Zealand.
  • New Zealand has the highest rate of melanoma in the world. Treatments for advanced melanoma are a developing area of medicine.
  • From 1 July 2016, nivolumab (brand name Opdivo) will be funded for people with advanced melanoma. This will be available through their specialist and will be administered via an infusion in a DHB hospital clinic.
  • PHARMAC remains open-minded to funding other treatments for melanoma and other types of cancer. PHARMAC will pay close attention to new data and market developments to ensure the best possible funding decisions for New Zealand are made. This includes continuing to work with the supplier of pembrolizumab (Keytruda).