Funding decison by PHARMAC disappointing

1 March 2012

The Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition (BCAC) expressed some disappointment today at the decision by PHARMAC to fund lapatinib (Tykerb) as an alternative to Herceptin for advanced HER2 positive breast cancer for use as a “first-line” metastatic treatment.

Libby Burgess, chair of BCAC says, “This is a disappointing decision as it will not help the vast majority of patients with advanced HER2 positive breast cancer. The real need for lapatinib is as a “second-line” treatment, to be used after Herceptin, not as an alternative to it.”

Ms Burgess goes on to explain, “This is where the strongest evidence from clinical trials lies, it is the way that our oncologists want to use it and it is a treatment that our women desperately need. Used as a “second-line” treatment lapatinib has the potential to increase the length of life, reduce symptoms and improve the quality of life for these patients.”

Australia funded lapatinib for use as a “second-line” treatment in 2008 but women in New Zealand can still only receive this treatment if they are able to pay for it.

BCAC acknowledges that there may be a few patients who would benefit from first-line use of lapatinib in metastatic HER2-positive breast cancer, for example patients who present with extensive brain metastases. The Coalition therefore supports funding of lapatinib for first-line metastatic use where this is considered the most effective option given the patient’s circumstances.


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