Breast cancer patient Denise Lemmen won't benefit from a proposal to publicly-fund new cancer treatments but she's thrilled for Northlanders who will from as early as the end of the year.

Pharmac is seeking feedback on a proposal to fund three new cancer treatments from December and to widen access to one currently funded through a provisional agreement with drug company Roche Products.

The three new drugs are alectinib (Alecensa) for ALK positive advanced non-small cell lung cancer, trastuzumab emtansine (Kadcyla) for HER-2 positive metastatic breast cancer, and ocrelizumab (Ocrevus) for relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis.

Clinical advice indicates about 800 patients per year will benefit from publicly-funded alectinib.


Pharmac also wants to widen access to pirfenidone (Esbriet) for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis — a serious condition that affects the delicate tissues of the lungs — to include patients with less severe disease.

Lemmen, who lives in Whangārei, was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer about 18 months ago and currently spends $5800 on 21 Ibrance tablets which she takes each morning on a three-week-on, one-week-off basis.

Ibrance, also known as Palbociclib, is available to women in Malaysia at about $2000 per month. In New Zealand, where it is not funded by Pharmac, it costs about $6000 per month.

The Parliamentary Health Select Committee is currently considering a petition signed by close to 34,000 people throughout New Zealand, including Lemmen, calling for Pharmac to fully fund Ibrance and another breast cancer drug, Kadcyla.

"The number of women that could have used Ibrance had it been publicly-funded is incredible. We have a two-tier health service in this country where if you can afford to live, you live. If you can't, you die," Lemmen said.

"I am thrilled for women who can get Kadcyla on a publicly-funded basis if that's what Pharmac decides. Pharmac is so chronically underfunded. We are so far behind the likes of Australia ... it's heartbreaking," she said.

Consultation closed at 5pm on Wednesday, with Pharmac expected to release its decision before the end of the year.