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Thursday, August 7

National Electioneers over Herceptin


Aggressive Her-2 Breas Cancer patients have been cruelly let down by Government after the Government's drug-buying agency announced not to extend funding to the 12 months trials of Herceptin.

This is according to National's Associate Health spokeswoman, Jackie Blue.

"The High Court directed review of Pharmac's decision not to fund 12 months was a real chance for Pharmac to reconsider, re-consult, and to take their blinkers off, she said.

She noted that Cancer specialist groups and even Pharmac's own cancer specialist committee backed the 12-month course.

Dr Blue, a former breast physician, says 33 countries now fund 12 months Herceptin as the standard of care.

"It's totally incomprehensible that the Government's drug-buying agency is persisting with this sub-optimal and unproven nine-week course." She said

Dr Blue can confirm that a National Government will free up funds to fund the full 12-month Herceptin programme.

"Women with breast cancer need certainty and reassurance that they will have access to the international standard of care that will give them the best chance of beating this disease."

Pharmac decided in July 2006 to back just the nine-week course of the drug, used to combat the aggressive HER2 positive form of breast cancer, at an estimated cost to district health boards of about $6 million a year.

But the High Court this year ordered Pharmac to consult on whether it should extend treatment to 12 months -- standard in more than 30 countries -- following a legal challenge by eight breast cancer patients, labelled the "Herceptin Heroines".

On the other hand, Health Minister David Cunliffe said that National is ignoring the scientific evidence for the 9-week Herceptin treatment and is cynically making an empty promise to New Zealand women and playing on the fears of women suffering from breast cancer.

"Today's announcement by National spokeswoman Jackie Blue that National would fund a 12 month course of Herceptin also ignores the reality that 3 other cancer sufferers' lives would be lost for every life that might be saved if 12-month Herceptin treatment was publicly funded," Cunliffe. said .

"At the moment Pharmac's view of the evidence is that there is no additional benefit to the 12 month course. National is now playing political football with the fears and emotions of New Zealand women suffering from breast cancer when they are most vulnerable and in need of reassurance and support, " Mr Cunliffe disclosed.

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