Advances in cancer treatment have seen the development of medicines known as targeted or biological therapies which can help to slow the growth of cancer cells.
Zelboraf is a targeted therapy which has been used in the treatment of people with metastatic or advanced BRAF-positive melanoma.
Zelboraf is registered for use in New Zealand, but it is not publicly funded which means you’ll have to pay for it.
You can find out more about Zelboraf on these pages. Zelboraf is not suitable for everyone, so it’s important that you speak with your doctor about whether this medication may be right for you.
On these pages you can learn more about:
Everything You Need to Know About Zelboraf
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Zelboraf (also known as vemurafenib) is used to treat people with advanced or metastatic BRAF-positive melanoma.
BRAF is a protein on melanoma cells that tell the cell when to grow and divide. When BRAF works properly cells grow and divide at a normal rate. However, in BRAF-positive metastatic melanoma the BRAF protein is faulty, which causes the cells to grow and divide too quickly.
The faulty BRAF proteins occur in about 1 out of 2 melanoma cases.
Zelboraf targets the faulty BRAF protein to help stop the melanoma cells from growing and dividing
You can be tested to see whether your melanoma is BRAF-positive.
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Studies have looked at how well Zelboraf works in people with BRAF-positive metastatic melanoma. This research is ongoing and there’s still a lot more to discover.
However, studies have shown that Zelboraf can help people with metastatic BRAF-positive melanoma.
In a large trial in untreated patients, one group of patients was given Zelboraf, while another group of patients were given a standard chemotherapy medicine (dacarbazine).
Patients who received Zelboraf:
- Lived longer without their tumours growing or spreading (6.9 months) compared to those receiving dacarbazine (1.6 months)1
- Lived on average four months longer than patients receiving dacarbazine (13.6 months compared to 9.7 months). 1
The results will not be the same for everyone. You will need to speak to your doctor about whether Zelboraf is right for you.
Zelboraf is an oral tablet that can be taken at home. The recommended dose of Zelboraf is four 240mg tablets (960mg) twice a day. One dose should be taken in the morning and the other in the evening (approximately 12 hours later).
Zelboraf is an effective treatment for patients with metastatic melanoma but it may have some unwanted side-effects in some people.
All medicines can have side-effects. Sometimes they are serious, most of the time they are not. You may need medical treatment if you get some of the side-effects. Remember that most people will not experience all of the side-effects listed below.
Ask your medical team to answer any questions you may have. Because Zelboraf may be used with other medicines that treat melanoma, it may be difficult for your doctor to tell whether the side-effects are due to Zelboraf or due to the other medicines.
Your medical team is in the best position to help you manage any side-effects so be open with them about any symptoms you notice, whether you think they are caused by Zelboraf or not.
For a full list of Zelboraf side-effects, or if you want to find out more about Zelboraf related side-effects, please visit our safety page or look at the Zelboraf Consumer Medicines Information. In the Consumer medicines Information, look at:Before you are given Zelboraf, While you are receiving Zelboraf, and Side Effects sections.
Zelboraf is not publicly funded by PHARMAC which means you will have to pay for this medication . This is a big decision and will obviously have an impact on you and your loved ones.
The cost of Zelboraf will depend on a number of factors and a private specialist will need to advise you on this. However, the current cost of Zelboraf for a months treatment will be $12,320 plus GST*. There may also be additional costs if you decide to have Zelboraf, such as specialist care. Roche also provides a cost share programme. Please refer to the cost share programme below.
*Price as at 1 February 2016
Roche has a cost share programme to help with the cost of Zelboraf. This programme is designed to help reduce the cost of medicines which are not funded by the Government’s drug-buying agency, PHARMAC.
Under the Zelboraf Cost Share Programme a number of doses or ‘cycles’ of the medicine are provided free (the cost of the Roche medicine only). The Zelboraf Cost Share Programme also limits or caps the total amount you pay for Zelboraf. Once a patient reaches the cap, Roche will provide ongoing Zelboraf at no cost, for as long as you continue to respond to treatment, or until you experience disease progression.
Remember, even if you make use of the cost share programme, you will still have to pay for additional costs such as specialist care.
If you’d like more information on the cost share programme, speak to your doctor. They can give you further details about the costs and eligibility.
Deciding whether to pay for treatment is a big decision and it’s one that requires careful thought.
Zelboraf is not a cure, but it may give you more time before your cancer grows and spreads. For many people, Zelboraf may be able to offer a few extra months and for others it may be able to offer more.
Speak with your doctor about your specific case and the pros and cons of taking Zelboraf. It will not be right for everyone and your doctor will need to ask you a number of questions to see if it’s suitable for you.
If you’re not sure how to have this discussion with your doctor, we’ve developed a list of common questions which might help you. Questions to ask your doctor.
If you’re considering Zelboraf and you want to want to know more about private providers, you can check out a list here.
If you’d like more information about Zelboraf, you can look at the following:
1. McArthur GA, et al. Lancet Oncol 2014;15:323-332
Zelboraf® (vemurafenib), 240 mg film-coated tablets, is a Prescription Medicine used to treat a skin cancer called metastatic (spreading) melanoma that has a mutation (abnormal change) in the BRAF gene.
Zelboraf has risks and benefits. Ask your doctor if Zelboraf is right for you. Use strictly as directed. If symptoms continue or you have side effects, see your healthcare professional. For further information on Zelboraf, please talk to your health professional or visit www.medsafe.govt.nz for Zelboraf Consumer Medicine Information.
Zelboraf is not funded by PHARMAC. You will need to pay for this medicine. A prescription charge and normal doctor fees may apply.