Pharmac improves access to breast cancer treatments


Pharmac improves access to breast cancer treatments

Media release from Pharmac
1 minute to Read
Unfiltered 2021

Pharmac – Te Pātaka Whaioranga has changed the criteria for two breast cancer medicines which means people with a particular type of breast cancer will be able to stay on treatment for longer.

“We’re really pleased to make these changes in response to the feedback we received from breast cancer advocacy groups,” says Geraldine MacGibbon, Pharmac’s Director, Pharmaceuticals.

From 1 July, ribociclib (branded as Kisqali) will be funded for a form of advanced breast cancer known as HR-positive HER2-negative locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer. Palbociclib (branded as Ibrance) has been funded for this type of breast cancer since 2020.

These medicines are called CDK4/6 inhibitors. They slow down the progression of cancer so people have more time, and they maintain their quality of life.

When the funding of ribociclib was progressed, advocacy groups asked Pharmac to allow people to be able to switch between funded CDK4/6 inhibitors if they’re experiencing severe side effects which mean they can’t continue treatment.

After considering this and seeking expert advice, Pharmac has made changes to the eligibility criteria for both palbociclib and ribociclib to give people experiencing side effects an option to continue their treatment if their cancer hasn’t progressed.

“While we expect that only a very small proportion of the 900 people receiving treatment with a CDK4/6 inhibitor would experience treatment-limiting side effects, we know that these changes will make a huge difference to those people and anyone else who might be anxious about this occurring.”

“We want to acknowledge the breast cancer advocacy groups for raising their concerns and for their patience as we sought additional advice from our clinical advisors and worked through these changes.”

MacGibbon says the decision highlights the importance of consultation as part of the funding process.

“The team at Pharmac reads every piece of feedback received and takes it into account in the decisions we make.”

Ah-Leen Rayner, chief executive of Breast Cancer Foundation NZ, says, “It’s great that Pharmac has listened to our feedback and has acted on it.”

“This is going to make a big difference to people experiencing severe side effects on this type of drug. It will help them to stay on these valuable, life-extending treatments for longer, while avoiding chemotherapy for as long as possible.”