Gaining Access to the Latest Lung Cancer Treatments
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Gaining Access to the Latest Lung Cancer Treatments

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By Simon Couldstone, Product Strategist, Roche Products New Zealand.


Lung cancer is New Zealand’s biggest cause of cancer deaths. Five Kiwis die of lung cancer every day, largely because it is detected late, after the disease has spread to other parts of the body. However, there are now several treatments available so people with lung cancer potentially have more options than ever before, depending on the type of lung cancer they have.

Roche is the world’s leading cancer treatment company and has been operating in New Zealand for more than forty years. Today, Roche Products New Zealand employs a dedicated team whose job it is to help patients in New Zealand access the latest Roche treatments for lung cancer. Roche’s goal is to get our medicines funded by PHARMAC, the government’s drug funding agency. However as this can take several years to complete, Roche Products New Zealand has put cost share programmes in place to help patients access the latest Roche lung cancer drugs privately.


What lung cancer treatments does Roche offer New Zealanders?

Roche Products New Zealand has four Medsafe approved products for the treatment of lung cancer:

  • TECENTRIQ®
  • ALECENSA®
  • TARCEVA®
  • AVASTIN®

From this list TARCEVA is funded by PHARMAC, however the other three products (TECENTRIQ, ALECENSA AND AVASTIN) are not funded for the treatment of lung cancer at the time of writing.

TECENTRIQ (atezolizumab)

  • The latest Roche breakthrough, this is a cancer immunotherapy for adult patients
  • For the treatment of locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)
  • Currently licenced for use after prior chemotherapy

ALECENSA (alectinib)

  • For adult patients with anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK)-positive, locally advanced or metastatic NSCLC
  • An option for patients who have progressed on or are intolerant to crizotinib

TARCEVA (erlotinib)

  • For the first-line and maintenance treatment of patients with advanced or metastatic NSCLC with activating EGFR mutation
  • Also indicated for the treatment of patients with locally advanced or metastatic NSCLC with an activating EGFR mutation who have previously received chemotherapy

AVASTIN (bevacizumab)

  • Can be used in combination with chemotherapy for the first line treatment of patients with unresectable advanced, recurrent or metastatic NSCLC


TECENTRIQ is one of the most innovative ways of treating lung cancer today. It is an immunotherapy, which means it enhances your body’s immune system to help fight cancer. Your immune system is a collection of cells and organs which helps to protect you against infection and diseases.

TECENTRIQ specifically targets a protein called PD-L1 which is found on all cells, including cancer cells. When the PD-L1 on cancer cells binds with specific proteins of your immune cells, it can prevent your immune system from recognising and therefore destroying cancer cells. TECENTRIQ is an antibody which is designed to block PD-L1; this enables your immune system to then recognise and kill the cancer cells.

As TECENTRIQ is a relatively new medicine it is not yet funded by PHARMAC. Roche Products New Zealand is currently working hard to get this breakthrough treatment to those Kiwis that need it as soon as possible.


Cost Share Programmes for Lung Cancer Treatments

One thing to be aware of is that Roche Products New Zealand offers patients assistance with the cost of certain medicines when they are not publicly funded. Cost share programmes typically provide a number of cycles of Roche medicines free of charge and in some cases these programmes can cap the total amount you will pay for the medicine. Once the cap is reached, Roche Products New Zealand will provide the specified medicine at no cost for a period of time. You can find out more about Roche cost share programmes here.


Accessing Treatments

Ask your healthcare professional about TECENTRIQ to find out if it is right for your personal treatment plan. If your tumor has an abnormal EGFR or ALK gene, ask your doctor about TARCEVA or ALECENSA.

TARCEVA is funded by PHARMAC, but ALECENSA is not. Your healthcare professional can contact Roche directly if they would like further information about accessing or funding any of Roche’s products.

For more information about Roche lung cancer products or to find a private treatment provider, please see links below;

About TECENTRIQ - https://www.cancerinfo.co.nz/treatments/tecentriq-2

Find a Private Treatment Provider - http://cancerinfo.co.nz/accessing-treatment/private-providers