Impact on access to cancer medicines
PHARMAC assumed responsibility for managing the funding of all cancer medicines from July 2011. Prior to that, PHARMAC managed the funding of cancer medicines dispensed in the community, but hospital cancer treatments were funded by DHB hospitals, up to an agreed amount in a separate fund they held.
The benefit of making the next best funding decision within the larger Combined Pharmaceutical Budget has meant that since 2011 there has been considerable expansion in access to cancer medicines in New Zealand. About 50% more New Zealanders are treated with funded cancer medicines now, compared to 2011.
We’ve listed 12 new cancer medicines since 2011, and enabled 12 others to be funded for more types of cancer. This has widened the choice of cancer medicines available for clinicians to treat their patients. These treatments are available to all eligible people regardless of where they live.
At the same time, PHARMAC has helped to influence the model of care for cancer patients by funding new types of cancer medicines that can be given in the community, mainly oral treatments like tablets. An example is capecitabine, which moved from being an infusion of another agent given in hospitals, to a tablet people can take at home. This reduces costs and frees up capacity in hospitals, so that more people can be treated overall. And receiving cancer treatments at home can be less disruptive for patients and their families and whānau.
New cancer medicines continue to be a large area of PHARMAC’s expenditure. In the year to June 2017 total spend on cancer medicines was $203.8 million, or 17% of total spending on all medicines. Of the nearly 46 million prescription items funded last year 250,000 were for cancer medicines. However, the number of people receiving cancer medicines has risen about 50%, while spending on cancer drugs nearly doubled since 2011. This reflects the very high cost of new cancer treatments. More than a quarter of the spending was on two medicines – trastuzumab (Herceptin), and pembrolizumab (Keytruda).
More choice - growth in cancer medicines
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Last updated: 13 December 2018