Pharmac considering multiple new treatments

Media release Medicines

Te Pātaka Whaioranga - Pharmac has initiated consultation today on a provisional bundle deal with pharmaceutical manufacturer Takeda to fund vedolizumab for people with inflammatory bowel disease and brentuximab vedotin for people with relapsed or refractory Hodgkin's lymphoma.

“Following the budget increase(external link), we are working our way through our options for investment list,” says Pharmac’s director of operations Lisa Williams. “Having already funded three new treatments and widened access to 14 medicines from our medicines budget since July 2022, we are really pleased to be in a position to progress the funding of many more treatments.”

If approved by Pharmac, vedolizumab would be funded from 1 February 2023 for eligible people with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, which are forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

“We know that IBD has a significant and ongoing impact on those who have it and their whānau,” says Ms Williams. “We currently fund several medicines used to treat and manage IBD, but evidence suggests that vedolizumab offers clinically significant health benefit in terms of response and remission. If vedolizumab is approved for funding, an estimated 450 people with IBD would benefit in the first year, increasing to up to 1200 people after a few years.”

The other medicine in the proposed bundle, brentuximab vedotin, is not yet approved for use in New Zealand by Medsafe. If approved for funding by Pharmac, brentuximab vedotin would be funded for the treatment of people with relapsed or treatment refractory Hodgkin and anaplastic large cell lymphoma from 1 December 2022 through Pharmac's Exceptional Circumstances Framework. Once Medsafe approved, it would be available on the Pharmaceutical Schedule via Special Authority.

“Brentuximab vedotin is a cancer therapy, which works by ‘targeting’ the changes in cancer cells that help it to survive and multiply within the body,” says Ms Williams. “Our clinical advisors have told us that brentuximab vedotin increases the likelihood of remission and reduces the likelihood of progression or death for people with these types of lymphoma. An estimated 20-30 people with relapsed or refractory Hodgkin or anaplastic large cell lymphoma would be expected to benefit from treatment each year.

The 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 Ms Williams. “It’s how we check that the people who will get the most benefit from the medicines will be able to access them.

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Pharmac has two other funding proposals out for consultation at the moment:

Pharmac has also just closed another consultation which was proposing funding five different medicines for people with kidney disease, osteoporosis, cancers, hyperparathyroidism and injuries from burns. A decision on that proposal will be shared in November.

Pronunciation guide

Vedolizumab – vee-dough-liz-u-mab

Brentuximab vedotin – bren-tux-i-mab veh-dough-tin