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Pharmac confirms Opdivo funding

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 9/06/2016

Drug-buying agency Pharmac is funding six new treatments, including a rival of advanced melanoma drug Keytruda, with its recent budget boost.

Pharmac was handed an extra $124 million over four years in last month's government budget and on Thursday announced it would be using those funds to expand the range of treatments it covers.

Melanoma drug Opdivo will be covered by the agency from July, confirming earlier announcements it was being considered.

The government had been under pressure to fund an advanced melanoma treatment and a petition seeking funding for Keytruda drew 54,000 signatures.

Pharmac in March said alternative Opdivo showed more certain survival data.

Despite the announcement on Thursday, it said it would continue working with Keytruda's supplier and keeping an open mind for future funding.

Two new drugs for hepatitis C, Harvoni and Viekira Pak, will be paid for by the agency from next month, along with Rituximab, a treatment for kidney disease in children.

Oestradiol patches, a hormone replacement therapy for menopausal women, will receive funding from August, while brain tumour treatment Temozolomide will get funds from December.

A seventh drug aimed at treating lung diseases in children - Azithromycin - was still being considered, Pharmac said.

Pharmac chief Steffan Crausaz said the treatments combined would help about 40,000 patients.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman welcomed the announcement.

"These funding decisions show Pharmac is continuing to provide New Zealanders with early access to new innovative medicines," he said.

PHARMAC'S NEW DRUGS:

* Opdivo - treating 350 people for advanced melanoma

* Harvoni - treating 1400 over five years for Hepatitis C

* Viekira Pak - treating up to 27,500 for Hepatitis C

* Temozolomide - treating 245 more for brain and neuroendocrine tumours

* Rituximab - treating 10 more children for kidney disease

* Oestradiol patches - hormone replacement therapy for 11,762 more women

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