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Agreement Reached To Fund New Treatments

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Agreement Reached To Fund New Treatments

Wellington, Oct 28 NZPA - Patients with a particular form of kidney cancer, those who want to quit smoking and arthritis sufferers are the beneficiaries of an agreement with a drug company announced today by Pharmac.

Patients with a form of kidney cancer would have a new treatment option sunitinib as part of a multi-product agreement between the government drug buying agency and Pfizer, Pharmac medical director Peter Moodie said today.

The agreement also included smoking cessation drug varenicline (Champix) and the auto-immune disorder treatment etanercept (Enbrel), and has long-term cost savings.

"Sunitinib and varenicline will become funded for the first time, while etanercept has its funding widened from November 1," Dr Moodie said.

About 450 New Zealanders each year were diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma, and there was a lack of funded treatment options for patients with advanced disease.

Interferon alpha was the principal treatment for people with advanced disease, but could be difficult to tolerate and had limited effectiveness.

"Until now, once people had tried interferon alpha they were basically at the end of their treatment options. Now, there is a new funded option and improved treatment in the form of sunitinib," Dr Moodie said.

The access widening for etanercept was also a step forward for diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, ankylosing spondylitis and psoriatic arthritis, he said.

Etanercept was the second of the TNF-alpha inhibitor biologic class of drugs to be funded in New Zealand for this group of diseases.

"Etanercept has been funded for juvenile idiopathic arthritis since 2004, so this decision is to widen access to the treatment."

The smoking cessation treatment would provide another option for people seeking help to stop smoking.

Pharmac already funded nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), bupropion (Zyban) and nortriptyline for the same task, Dr Moodie said.

Pharmac's clinical advisors had initially been concerned about funding varenicline because of its safety profile.

However, varenicline was now part of Medsafe's intensive medicines monitoring programme, and Pharmac had been careful to target its use through funding rules that required people to try at least one other funded product previously, and to use it only as part of a comprehensive smoking cessation programme, Dr Moodie said.

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