Push for new chemotherapy drug to be funded

The Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition (BCAC) is pushing for the chemotherapy drug, Abraxane, to be publicly funded for women with advanced breast cancer.

BCAC has lodged an application with the Government’s drug-buying agency, PHARMAC, to publicly fund the drug for patients with advanced breast cancer.

Abraxane was approved as safe and effective for use in New Zealand in 2010 and is widely used in other countries. It has fewer side-effects than other similar chemotherapy drugs.

BCAC chairperson, Libby Burgess, says oncologists have been calling for the medicine to be publicly funded for the past eight years and it’s high time it was more widely available.

“There are hundreds of women who could benefit from Abraxane and this could give them a dramatic improvement in their quality of life.  

“Abraxane has been used widely overseas for many years. Australia funded it in 2009 and it’s just so sad that this is yet another example of New Zealanders receiving less-than-optimum treatment because new medicines are slow to be publicly-funded in this country,” Libby says.

She says Abraxane is better than similar medicines because it is more easily tolerated and can be especially useful for older patients, patients with triple negative breast cancer and patients who also have diabetes. In addition, Abraxane does not require a long infusion time. It can be given in just half an hour as opposed to the three-hour infusion time for other similar medicines.

Unlike other forms of taxane, Abraxane is delivered in a harmless protein formulation instead of a solvent so there is no need for administration of pre-medications to reduce toxic effects. Patients who are unable to tolerate other taxanes can be treated, providing another life-extending treatment option.

“The fact that Abraxane requires less preparation and infusion time is important for the health system – it saves time and resources. Importantly, it also reduces stress for patients and their friends and family because the medicine can be administered quickly and results in fewer adverse effects,” Libby says.

BCAC hopes PHARMAC will respond favourably to the application when it meets in May to consider which medicines to prioritise for funding.

19 Feb 2017

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