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Pharmac is starting its funding assessment process for a new cystic fibrosis medication after receiving an application from pharmaceutical company Vertex.

Vertex has applied for its triple combination modulator therapy medicine to be funded for people aged over 6 with cystic fibrosis, making New Zealand the first country to receive an application for those under the age of 12. Cystic fibrosis is an inherited life-threatening disorder that damages the lungs and digestive system.

“We asked Vertex almost a year ago to submit an application and their supporting clinical information,” says Pharmac’s director of operations Lisa Williams. “Yesterday we received that application.

“Before we can fund any medicine, we need advice from our clinical experts, a deal with the medicine supplier and enough money in the budget to fund it now and in the future.

“Both our Respiratory Subcommittee and our Pharmacology and Therapeutics Advisory Committee (PTAC) will assess the scientific evidence on this medicine within the next few months. They will make recommendations to us on whether we should fund the medicine or not.

“Our clinical advisers tell us if a medicine has the evidence to back up the claims made by pharmaceutical companies. We only want to fund treatments that are proven to make a difference for people,” says Ms Williams.

“If they recommend that it should be funded, we will undertake our economic assessment of the medicine and compare and rank it against all other medicines awaiting funding.

“If it makes it to our options for investment list, we’ll aim to fund it when we have money available in our budget. I do want to acknowledge that it is one of the most expensive applications we have ever received,” says Ms Williams.

Pharmac has over 70 medicines that it would like to fund on its option for investment list. Every year it funds more medicines for more New Zealanders. Pharmac’s options for investment list changes constantly, as it gets around 40 new medicine funding applications each year.  In the past financial year Pharmac funded 14 new medicines and widened access to 19 already funded medicines so more people can use them.

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