A new drug which was recently funded for melanoma treatment is now registered for lung cancer treatment in New Zealand.
Keytruda (pembrolizumab) this week received its second Medsafe registration for lung cancer, pharmaceutical company Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD) announced.
That meant Keytruda is now registered for PD-L1 positive patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
MSD New Zealand Director Paul Smith said the drug had the potential to transform the way lung cancer is treated. He said there was reason to believe Keytruda should replace platinum-based chemotherapy as the standard of care for advanced NSCLC.
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Philip Hope, chief executive of Lung Foundation New Zealand, said Keytruda was a “hugely welcome step forward in ensuring New Zealander can benefit from this new generation of treatments”.
Lung cancer is the country’s biggest cancer killer, with more than 1600 Kiwis dying of it each year.
Smith said MSD made an application to Pharmac, the Government’s drug funding agency, for funding of Keytruda in advanced NSCLC.
Last year, Pharmac announced it would fund Keytruda for treatment of advanced melanoma from September 1, 2016.
Politicians and patients had lobbied hard for the drug. Some patients had been privately funding the treatment at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars for a two-year course.
It followed Pharmac’s decision in June that year to fund Opdivo (nivolumab), another melanoma treatment.