The employer of a 54 year old Gene Chase from Whangaparaoa is appealing for donations to help pay for treatment of his Castleman’s Disease.
According to an article by the NZ Herald, Castleman’s disease
is similar to lymphoma – the cancer that affects the lymph nodes or glands – and hasled (sic) to him suffering dramatic weight loss, nausea and diarrhoea, bouts of high fever and crumbling teeth…”
Fortunately there is a treatment, unfortunately NZ’s medicines agency Phamac won’t pay for it
“The family were then told the drug he needed to treat it, Tocilizumab, was not government-funded and would be available only through clinical trials.” source
Which is ridiculous because Tocilizumab (AKA Actemra and RoActemra), a form of humanized monoclonal antibody used as an immune-suppressant, has been around for almost a decade for the treatment of autoimmune diseases, multiple myeloma and prostate cancer.
It was approved for the treatment of Castleman’s Disease in Japan in 2005. In 2009 the EC the European Medicines Agency and Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration gave it the go-ahead. It is also licensed for use in the USA. source
Australia also lists it on its pharmaceutical benefits scheme, which means that the patient never pays more than $36.90 for a 20ml injection of the drug.
In the UK the cost benefit of using the drug is acknowledged:
“the drug costs £9,295/year for 70 kg patient for RA treatment. Calculations suggest a base‑case incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) of £19,870 per incremental quality‑adjusted life years (QALYs) for patients with DMARD resistance.” source
In New Zealand:
The treatment is administered every 3 weeks and costs $2,500 a time ($43,000 per annum).
“Auckland DHB clinical haemotologist Dr Paul Ockelford said it was difficult for Pharmac to fund drugs for rare diseases because the high costs did not balance out.” source
That must be hard for anyone who may benefit from Tocilizumab, particularly if they know that New Zealanders elsewhere in the world have funded access to the drug. Kiwis living across the Tasman may access it for under $40.
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Kiwis Missing Out On Vital Medicines, With Fatal Consequences (ENZ.org May 2010)
“Kate Newton in the Dominion Post today writes about a new Government report that confirms that high cost, novel drugs aren’t being made available in New Zealand and some low-cost but highly specialised drugs are difficult to access too. It appears that New Zealanders are not being given access to medicines that are available in countries such as Australia, with fatal consequences…
It’s been known for some time that Pharmac doesn’t allow New Zealanders to access new medicines for five to 10 years after they are widely used elsewhere in the world, and then it waits until they are generic until they are widely used. The system keeps prices down for the Government but has been criticised for restricting drug choices and delaying the arrival of some new medicines…”more
Rip Off New Zealand – Pharmacy Prices a Bitter Pill (E2NZ.org Dec 2013)
New Zealand’s pharmacy prices are already among the highest in the OECD with a wholesale mark up of 10% over the manufacturer’s price plus the pharmacy’s mark up (in the USA the wholesale mark up is around 2-4 %). But that doesn’t stop unscrupulous owners from over charging visitors who need essential medications.
One chemist in a holiday area was charging an additional $10 per prescription, supposedly to cover staff holiday pay rates, on Boxing Day. In parallels to a famous Dickensian tale, the medication was to treat a small boy’s leg infection…
They waited until until one of the original drugs, containing donepezil, came off patent and a generic version was offered at a greatly reduced price. More than 40,000 people in New Zealand are believed to have dementia. More than half have Alzheimer’s.
says a cancer specialist. MabThera, (rituximab, commonly used in other countries) is one of a new generation of smart drugs like Herceptin that targets specific characteristics of cancer cells, is already funded for an aggressive form of lymphoma. But the application for it to be used for follicular lymphoma, which makes up about a third of the 770 lymphoma cases in New Zealand, has languished among drug agency Pharmac’s decision-making processes” said Auckland oncologist Peter Browett. (source)
Still think that New Zealand has a first world health service? Read our article from yesterday New Zealand Hospitals “Start Care Rationing” as 500 Nursing Graduates Struggle to Find Work