National health spokeswoman Jackie Blue has lambasted PHARMAC decision to decline funding for breast cancer drug Herceptin.
According to PHARMAC spokeswoman, Dr Dilky Rasiah, clinical studies did not show a strong enough performance for the expensive drug to be funded presently but would keep the drug's funding status on review.
She said, "The available data is short-term and does not show the long-term benefit of Herceptin, particularly on life expectancy. We need sufficient data that shows an investment in Herceptin is justified, which is not currently the case."
She said, "These women will continue to face the stress of desperately trying to find the money to pay for Herceptin or face an uncertain future without it."
Dr Blue opined that New Zealand should follow the lead of countries like the United Kingdom and Australia, which have provisionally funded Herceptin for women with early stage breast cancer.
She added, "Time is of the essence for women with aggressive Herceptin-responsive breast cancers. They don't want to wait for the cancer to spread to their liver, lungs, bones or brain before they can get access to Herceptin. I don't hold much hope that Pharmac's Advisory Board meeting in August will suddenly approve funding."
However Dr Rasiah has said that PHARMAC's 'ongoing review' would review further trial data, contact overseas clinical trial researchers as well as discuss the possibility of New Zealand taking part in a further international trial on Herceptin with oncologists.
It has been estimated that funding Herceptin for early breast cancer would cost district health boards (DHBs) about $20 to $25 million per year for up to 320 patients when compared to a current spend on other cancer drugs of about $35 to 40 million.
DHB CEOs spokesman David Meates says "DHBs have to be mindful of Herceptin's cost, and the impact funding would have on associated services such as echocardiograms, infusion and monitoring services."
Manufacturer for Herceptin, Roche Products, has said that it would continue to work with PHARMAC to provide information and advocate for funding Herceptin.