Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Government announces new drug funding, including for advanced melanoma

From July 1, medicine to treat advanced melanoma, Nivolumab, would be fully funded. Photo / iStock
From July 1, medicine to treat advanced melanoma, Nivolumab, would be fully funded. Photo / iStock

Medicine to treat six diseases, including for advanced melanoma, will be available to New Zealanders.

From July 1, medicine to treat advanced melanoma, Nivolumab, would be fully funded, Pharmac announced today.

Rituximab, for nephrotic syndrome, a kidney disorder in children, will also be fully funded.

Two medicines to treat hepatitis C, Harvoni and Viekira Pak will also be fully funded. Photo / iStock
Two medicines to treat hepatitis C, Harvoni and Viekira Pak will also be fully funded. Photo / iStock

Two medicines to treat hepatitis C, Harvoni and Viekira Pak will also be fully funded.

From August 1, Oestradiol patches for menopausal women would be available, as well as Temozolomide for brain tumours and neuroendocrine tumours available from December 1.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said the new treatments would benefit over 40,000 New Zealanders.

"This includes an advanced melanoma treatment, Opdivo, which could benefit around 360 people each year, Temozolomide for brain tumours, Oestradiol patches for menopausal women, and Rituximab for nephrotic syndrome, a kidney disorder, in children.

"Pharmac is also funding two new hepatitis C treatments, Harvoni and Viekira Pak, which are a major advancement in treatment with cure rates of more than 90 per cent. Around 50,000 New Zealanders are affected by hepatitis C, and many patients progress to liver cancer and liver failure.

"These new treatments will make a considerable difference to the lives of many New Zealanders and their families," he said.

Pharmac chief executive Steffan Crausaz said feedback from the health sector played an important part in these funding decisions.

"New Zealanders expect different parts of the health system to work in partnership, and it's very pleasing how well this occurred to finalise these decisions," Mr Crausaz said.

He said one important change to note is that from 1 July, specialists will be able to prescribe Viekira Pak and Viekira Pak-RBV for all eligible patients.

From 1 October, once additional support has been put in place, Viekira Pak would be funded on prescriptions written by all eligible prescribers, including GPs, he said.

He said some consultation responses asked for earlier funding of treatments while the consultation period was running.

"We acknowledge that people seeking treatment want access as soon as they can, and that waiting is hard.

"There is a balance between providing funded access as early as possible, and ensuring that all issues raised by a wide range of parties are carefully considered and changes made to get the high-quality decisions New Zealanders expect," he said.

- NZ Herald

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