Exciting new breast cancer medicines now available to be used in NZ

BCAC is thrilled that two breakthrough breast cancer drugs – Kadcyla® and Perjeta® - have recently been approved for use in this country by MedSafe New Zealand.

These two medicines were listed as being among the top advances in cancer treatment and care for 2012 by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

MedSafe approval is needed before New Zealand women can be prescribed the medicines, which have been shown to be effective in helping to treat HER-2 Positive breast cancer.

BCAC chair, Libby Burgess, says it’s a major step forward for New Zealand oncologists to have Kadcyla® and Perjeta® in their arsenal to deal with advanced HER2-Positive breast cancer.

“These drugs really are at the cutting edge of breast cancer research and clinical trials have shown that Kadcyla® and Perjeta® are extremely effective medicines for advanced HER2-Positive breast cancer. 

“BCAC is thrilled that these medicines can now be used in New Zealand.  Unfortunately, at this stage New Zealand patients will have to pay for these drugs and it’s likely to be a hefty bill.  But we at BCAC will be making the casefor these breakthrough drugs to be funded for women with advanced HER2-Positive breast cancer,” Libby says.

Kadcyla® is a special targeted medicine for women with HER2-Positive metastatic breast cancer.  It uses Herceptin® (trastuzumab) to deliver a chemotherapy agent (DM1) directly to the breast cancer cells.  This means that other cells are not affected by the chemotherapy agent and many of the usual side-effects of chemotherapy are reduced, eg hair loss and nausea.  Clinical trials have shown that the two year survival rate for women with advanced HER2-Positive breast cancer improved from 47 per cent to 65 per cent.

Perjeta® is used in conjunction with Herceptin® (trastuzumab) and the chemotherapy agent docetaxel for women with HER2-Positive metastatic breast cancer.  It is often used in patients who have developed a resistance to Herceptin therapy.  Clinical trials have shown that women receiving Perjeta, plus Herceptin and docetaxel had 38 per cent reduction in the risk of their disease worsening or death compared with those receiving Herceptin® and docetaxel alone. 

BCAC hopes the Government’s drug buying agency, PHARMAC, will consider subsidising the two medicines soon.  The Australian equivalent of PHARMAC, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee has recently considered an application to fund Kadcyla.  Perjeta® is available to women in Australia, but they also have to pay for it.

“The cost of these drugs is prohibitive for most people, so we really hope that PHARMAC will consider subsidising these medicines in the near future in order to help prolong the lives of women with advanced breast cancer and give them a greater quality of life.  It’s so important,” Libby says.

The pharmaceutical company Roche manufactures both drugs and has introduced a Patient Access Programme for them in which the cost of the medicines is discounted and the total amount patients have to pay is capped.  For more information please contact, Roche.

Roche has also produced these documents which provide further information on Kadcyla and Perjeta. 

 

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