Melanoma New Zealand delighted with KEYTRUDA registration

Source: Scoop, September 2015

Melanoma New Zealand delighted with KEYTRUDA registration

Melanoma New Zealand is delighted that anti-PD1 immunotherapy KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) has been approved by Medsafe and is now a registered medicine in New Zealand.

Chief Executive Officer of Melanoma New Zealand, Linda Flay, says: “This is an important step for New Zealanders. Along with Australia, we have the highest incidence of melanoma in the world and 30 percent of cases occur in people under the age of 50.

“More than 4,500 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed in New Zealand each year. Of those, around 340 patients will be classified as stage four, and therefore have a life expectancy of around nine months.

“Up until now, New Zealand melanoma patients have had no access to effective medicines. At last we are beginning to see new treatments coming through with immunotherapy drugs finally bringing hope to patients.”

Melanoma New Zealand Board Member, Dr Rosalie Fisher, says, “Immune checkpoint inhibition is currently the most effective treatment for malignant melanoma and Medsafe registration of KEYTRUDA® is a very important first step in New Zealand.

“The latest clinical trials presented at ASCO 2015 showed that KEYTRUDA® shrank tumours in the majority of patients not previously treated, and that there was no detectable cancer in 14 percent of patients at a median follow up of 15 months.

“These results are really exciting. In comparison the only funded treatment in New Zealand is chemotherapy, which is usually ineffectual and now considered obsolete by international standards.

“KEYTRUDA® is a well-tolerated treatment as it works by blocking a specific protein, PD-1, unmasking the tumour and allowing the body’s own immune system to fight the cancer.”

Mrs Flay adds: “While registration is a great step, it is vital patients now get funded access to this treatment. KEYTRUDA® is currently under review by PHARMAC and it is in the interests of all New Zealanders that this drug is funded soon.

“In New Zealand you have a one in 17 chance of developing melanoma in your lifetime. It can affect anyone. Access to KEYTRUDA® is now in the hands of PHARMAC and we hope it does the right thing by New Zealanders.”

KEYTRUDA® is the first immunotherapy medicine to be registered in New Zealand and is already registered and funded in Australia and the United States.

ENDS

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