Prostate cancer treatment to be funded from 1 May

Media release Medicines

PHARMAC will begin funding for the prostate cancer treatment abiraterone (Zytiga) from 1 May 2015, potentially benefiting up to 1000 men annually.

Prostate cancer is the most commonly-diagnosed form of cancer among New Zealand men. Funding for abiraterone will be for men with an advanced form of prostate cancer, called metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer.

Men will be able to receive funded abiraterone tablets either before or after chemotherapy.

The funding comes as part of a multi-product agreement with Janssen, which includes the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) treatment Concerta; Topamax, a treatment for epilepsy; and Eprex, a treatment for anaemia.

Savings and rebates in the multi-product agreement have helped reduce the overall cost of abiraterone.

“PHARMAC is always looking to fund new treatments that provide health gains for patients,” says Director of Operations Sarah Fitt.

“Giving men an alternative to chemotherapy is a real benefit for them, and because it’s a tablet they won’t need to go to hospital to receive intravenous treatment.

“Clinical trials show abiraterone significantly improves the quality of life for men with advanced prostate cancer and extends life by around five months. That’s a real benefit for New Zealand men with advanced prostate cancer, a disease where current treatment options are limited.

“We’re pleased to be able to improve the outlook for men with this common cancer.” 

Comment on abiraterone funding

Prostate Cancer Foundation

Prostate Cancer Foundation Chief Executive Graeme Woodside says the Foundation is delighted with the decision by PHARMAC to approve the funding of abiraterone for patients with advanced prostate cancer.

Mr Woodside says abiraterone is one of the innovative new treatments becoming available for men with advanced prostate cancer. There has been concern that while funding for it was available in other countries, such as Australia, UK and Canada, New Zealand men were unable to access this as a funded medication and some men were paying up to $5000 per month to privately fund their treatment.

“The Prostate Cancer Foundation congratulates PHARMAC and the supplier, Janssen, on reaching agreement on a supply arrangement that will give access to this medication, and new hope, to men with late stage prostate cancer,” says Mr Woodside.

Prof Ross Lawrenson, Midland Prostate Cancer Research Group

“We are very pleased to see that PHARMAC has authorised the funding of abiraterone. Our research has shown that metastatic prostate cancer is commonly found at diagnosis in New Zealand men with over 300 new cases annually. Māori men are twice as likely to be diagnosed with metastatic disease.

“Abiraterone provides an additional treatment option for these men and has been shown in clinical trials to increase life expectancy over and above our current treatments. It also means that there is an alternative to the use of chemotherapy in those men who have become resistant to hormonal treatment.

“This will be of particular relevance to older men, those with co-morbidities and those living some distance from a cancer treatment centre who are less likely to be suitable for treatment with chemotherapy.”

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