Government unveils $604 million boost for up to 26 new cancer treatments

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch
Jun 24, 2024 |

The Government has announced its delivering up to 26 cancer treatments as part of an overall package of up to 54 more new medicines.

Health Minister Dr Shane Reti and Associate Health Minister David Seymour made the announcement this afternoon.

The Government faced strong criticism after funding for the new drugs was absent in the Budget.

“Pharmac estimates that around 175,000 people will benefit from the additional treatments in just the first year,” Dr Reti said.

“Today we are delivering on the therapies we promised and more, with an unprecedented and transformative investment in cancer and other treatments.

“Of the 13 cancer treatments listed in 2023, up to seven will be included in the package announced today, and the others will be replaced by alternatives just as good or better.

“This means that not only will treatments for all the cancer types in the pre-election manifesto list be covered, but also a number of other treatments, including for blood cancers and other tumours.

“We are also providing more new medicines for a range of other conditions to improve Kiwis’ health and life outcomes.

“This announcement will allow Pharmac to fund up to 26 cancer treatments and 28 other treatments. This will be a mix of new medicines and widened access to medicines that are already available.

“Our reason for this expansion is simple. Increasing access to vital medicines for Kiwis is the right thing to do. We thank each and every New Zealander who has shared their health journey – cancer related or otherwise – with our Government.

“Pharmac will receive a $604 million funding boost for medicines which is a pre-commitment against next year’s Budget. Further funding to deliver and administer the new treatments will available to Pharmac and Health New Zealand.

Today’s announcement means Pharmac will receive a $604 million uplift for  medicines over four years, enabling an estimated 54 new or widened access  medicines to be funded, with the first becoming available from  October/November.  

  • In total, Pharmac estimates the proposal will fund: 

26 cancer treatments covering all cancer types originally listed plus  other types not previously included (such as blood cancers); 

up to seven of the original 13 cancer treatments proposed pre  election, with alternatives for the other treatments that are as or  more effective than those originally listed; 

28 other medicines that also add substantially to New Zealanders’  health and life outcomes, across a wide range of conditions which  could include infections, respiratory conditions, osteoporosis, sexual  health, dermatology, inflammatory conditions, and mental health. 

  • The named cancer treatments included in this package are: 

 Atezolizumab with bevacizumab for liver cancer  

Axitinib for kidney cancer – second-line therapy 

Cetuximab or panitumumab for bowel cancer – first-line therapy 

Nivolumab for kidney cancer – second-line therapy 

Osimertinib for lung cancer – first-line therapy  

Osimertinib for lung cancer – second-line therapy  

Pembrolizumab for bladder cancer 

  • The cancer medicines will include treatments for: 

o Lung cancer  

o Liver cancer 

o Bowel cancer 

o Kidney cancer  

o Bladder cancer  

o Head and neck cancer 

o Melanoma

  • A number of other treatments for cancers including blood cancers and other  tumours, meaning an estimated 26 additional cancer treatments in all. 

“Some of the newly funded cancer treatments will be available from October/ November, with more phased in over the next year,” Dr Reti said.David Seymour said today’s announcement is exactly what Kiwis want: public money supporting visible frontline services and healthcare for people in need.

“For many New Zealanders, funding for pharmaceuticals is life or death, or the difference between a life of pain and suffering or living freely. It was a priority for this Government to find the additional $1.8 billion to fix the fiscal cliff left by the previous government, and we’re now providing a $604 million uplift to Pharmac to ensure more Kiwis can access life-changing medicines,” Seymour said.

“Expanding the package to reach around 175,000 people per year across a range of conditions in its first year is possible through the Pharmac model which gets the best value for New Zealanders, something that’s very important to me.

“This approach allows the Government and Pharmac to act on updated clinical advice, funding new and more effective treatments which have superseded previous options.”

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch

Chris Lynch is a journalist, videographer and content producer, broadcasting from his independent news and production company in Christchurch, New Zealand. If you have a news tip or are interested in video content, email [email protected]

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