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News for week ending 10 May 2002


Cancer patients throughout New Zealand will have equal access to cancer drugs under a new assessment process run by Pharmac.

The process will see all new pharmaceutical cancer treatments assessed in the same way, and approved drugs made available nationally to ensure patients get fair and consistent access to treatments. It will also see specialists in pharmaceutical cancer treatment given input into Pharmac's decision-making process through a new committee, the Cancer Treatments Sub-Committee (CaTSOP).

"This new process will ensure there is a level playing field for cancer patients," says Pharmac medical director Dr Peter Moodie

The new process, recommended by the New Zealand Cancer Treatments Working Party (NZCTWP) last year, means cancer patients will be able to have the same treatments regardless of where they live.

Last year a group of hospital cancer specialists developed a list of drugs, known as the "basket", that was initially funded by the Ministry of Health. Pharmac has now stepped in to take on the responsibility for assessing new treatments, or existing ones that are extended to treat other illnesses.

The new process, a part of Pharmac's extended role in hospital pharmaceuticals, combines advice from cancer specialists with Pharmac's expertise in assessing community pharmaceuticals.

"The intention is to draw on the expertise of cancer specialists, the medical overview of the Pharmacology and Therapeutics Advisory Committee, and the pharmaco-economic expertise of PHARMAC before deciding which drugs should be funded and in what order," says Dr Moodie.

"This is also an area where new technologies are developing all the time, so we have to make sure we have a sound process to properly examine them."

New applications for cancer drugs are now considered by CATSoP, which makes recommendations to the Pharmacology and Therapeutics Advisory Committee. PTAC then assesses the drug, and can make recommendations to Pharmac and ask for further input from specialists. It is then up to Pharmac to negotiate with suppliers and take a funding proposal to the Pharmac board.

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