Pharmac looking to fund medicines for lung and ovarian cancer

Media release Medicines

Pharmac is considering funding a bundle deal which would give New Zealanders more effective treatment options for lung cancer and ovarian cancer. The bundle deal also includes a new medicine for people with severe eosinophilic asthma.

The bundle deal with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is for:

  • durvalumab (brand name Imfinzi) for people with stage 3 non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)
  • widened access to olaparib (brand name Lynparza) to include first line treatment of people with certain types of high-grade ovarian cancer
  • benralizumab (brand name Fasenra) providing an additional treatment option for people with severe eosinophilic asthma, and
  • discounts on three already funded medicines - budesonide with eformoterol powder for inhalation (Symbicort Turbuhaler), fulvestrant (Faslodex) and gefitinib (Iressa)

“Access to these medicines should result in better health outcomes for those needing treatment,” says Pharmac’s chief medical officer Dr David Hughes. “If approved, durvalumab would provide a very effective treatment option for people with lung cancer, if diagnosed before the cancer had spread to other parts of the body, and olaparib would be funded earlier in the illness. Benralizumab would also be funded as an alternative treatment for those with severe eosinophilic asthma and for those who can’t use mepolizumab.”

“Pharmac is committed to tackling medicine access inequities,” says Dr Hughes. “We acknowledge that these conditions disproportionately affect Māori and Pacific people and, as part of our consultation process, we are seeking feedback on how this proposal could benefit Māori and Pacific people, and what could be done to improve the expected benefit of funding these treatments.”

“We know that to get the best from these treatments, early diagnosis is key.  We want to treat as many as we can in the earlier stages of this disease, to reduce the number of people requiring treatment in later stages. Pharmac still wants to fund immunotherapy treatments in later stages of lung cancer when we have funding available, and the funding of durvalumab won’t limit our ability to do that.”

Bundle deals are made when Pharmac negotiates with one supplier for multiple medicines at a competitive rate. This gives Pharmac the flexibility to fund more new treatments and make treatments that are already funded available to more people. 

“This is the Pharmac model in action – funding more medicines for more Kiwis, by negotiating great deals with our suppliers.”

Consultation has gone out today to health professionals and is available on the Pharmac website for anyone wanting to have their say about the proposal. Details on the medicines can be found here. Feedback is requested by 28 January 2022.