Pharmac and its role in making drugs available

Garrett Chin

New Zealand and Australia have the highest rates of melanoma in the world.

Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer, accounting for more than three quarters of all skin cancer deaths. Most melanomas are caused by exposure to damaging ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

A new-generation drug, called Keytruda, has been developed that shows positive effects in reducing melanoma. It interacts with the body’s immune system to help fight melanoma and limit its disastrous effects.

Keytruda is expensive, and it was in the news when New Zealand’s government drug supply agency Pharmac initially declined to publicly fund it. As Pharmac described in its 2016 annual report, during the previous year  “there was a strong public focus on new medicines to treat melanoma.”

Keytruda was made publicly available in New Zealand in September 2016.

In this podcast, Garrett Chin looks into the constraints of New Zealand funding of Keytruda, exploring some of the considerations that Pharmac has to make in order to fund as many pharmaceuticals as it can and benefit the greatest number of people within a fixed drug budget.

Garrett talks with Retired Medical Oncologist Dr David Perez; Health Economist Dr Trudy Sullivan, from the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine at the University of Otago; Dr Lyndell Kelly, a Radiation Oncologist at Dunedin Hospital; and Dr Christopher Jackson, a Medical Oncologist at Dunedin Hospital.

Pharmac funds more than 19,000 medicines and medical devices from a budget of around $800-million.

Pharmac and its role in making drugs available
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