PHARMAC funding new leukaemia medicine

Media release Medicines

New Zealanders with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia will have another medicine option available to help them live longer from 1 December 2019.

PHARMAC expects around 150 people will benefit from treatment with venetoclax in the first year of funding it, increasing to 230 New Zealanders by the end of the second year. 

Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia is the most common form of leukaemia in New Zealand with around 120 people diagnosed annually. 

“We already fund other medicines for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, including bendamustine and obinutuzumab. Funding venetoclax means patients whose chronic lymphocytic leukaemia has relapsed have another option for treatment,” says Dr Ken Clark, PHARMAC’s acting medical director. 

Venetoclax is an oral treatment that increases the amount of time a person lives with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia without it getting worse (called progression free survival). It also increases overall survival compared with currently funded treatments. 

“This medicine is going to make a real difference to the lives of people who are living with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia,” says Dr Ken Clark. 

PHARMAC’s role is to make more medicines available to more New Zealanders to help them live healthy lives. 

PHARMAC currently spends around $220 million per year on cancer medicines, this has increased substantially over the last several years. 

Since PHARMAC took responsibility for managing hospital cancer medicines in 2011 the amount spent on cancer medicines has increased by 100 percent.  

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Contact: Jane Wright on or 021863342.