About MabThera

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.

MabThera is a targeted therapy which has been used in the treatment of people with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL).

MabThera is registered for use in New Zealand and is funded by the government agency, PHARMAC, for certain people with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. However, not all patients will be eligible for publicly funded MabThera such as if you have had MabThera before you may not be eligible for a second course of treatment. This means you’ll have to pay for it.

You can find out more about MabThera on these pages. MabThera 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 MabThera

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How Does MabThera Work?

MabThera (also known as rituxmab) is used to treat people with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia. It is given in conjunction with a chemotherapy called chlorambucil.

MabThera works by targeting a marker found on certain white blood cells. It attaches to this marker and this helps to stop the abnormal growth of these white blood cells. At the same time it encourages your body’s immune system to attack them.

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How Can MabThera Help Me?

Studies have looked at how well MabThera works in combination with chemotherpy in people with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.1-3 This research is ongoing and there’s still a lot more to discover.

These studies have shown that MabThera improves the length of time that patients are free of their chronic lymphocytic leukaemia .1-3

The studies have also looked at MabThera in people who have not received any previous treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia2 and those who have received previous treatment.3 They’ve shown that:

  • MabThera plus chemotherapy improved the length of time patients remained free of their disease compared with those on chemotherapy alone (30.6 months versus 20.6 months).

The results will not be the same for everyone. You will need to speak to your doctor about whether MabThera is right for you.

How is MabThera Given?

MabThera is given as an IV infusion (drip into a vein). It’s usually given every four weeks in conjunction with chemotherapy for up to six cycles. The infusion generally takes between three to six hours and usually takes place in the cancer department at a hospital or clinic.

Before the infusion, medicines will be given to help reduce side-effects during the infusion.

Side-Effects of Mabthera

MabThera is an effective treatment for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia 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. Ask your medical team to answer any questions you may have.

The side-effects of MabThera are most common during your first treatment. Your doctor or nurse may give you medicines before your treatment to help reduce possible side-effects during the infusion.

Because MabThera is given with other medicines that treat chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, it may be difficult to for your doctor to tell whether the side-effects are due to MabThera or not.

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 or not you think they are caused by the medicine.

If you want to find out more about MabThera-related side effects, please look at the MabThera Consumer Medicines Information. In the Consumer Medicines Information, look at: Before you are given MabThera, While you are receiving MabThera, and Side Effects sections.

How do I get Mabthera?

MabThera is publicly funded for certain patients with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, including those who have not been treated before with MabThera and those who have received previous treatment with other chemotherapy (not MabThera) and have subsequently relapsed.

If you do not meet the criteria for publicly funded MabThera, you will have to pay for the medicine yourself. This is a big decision and will obviously have an impact on you and your loved ones.

You will want to make this decision with your friends and family and you may want to explore other funding options, such as health insurance or fundraising programmes.

The exact cost of a course of MabThera will depend on a number of factors, including the dose you require and the number of infusions you receive. A private specialist will need to advise you on this. But you can expect MabThera to cost about $30,000 plus GST*. This is the cost without the cost share programme.

If you have MabThera at a private treatment centre, you may also need to pay for your specialist’s appointments and costs of administering the treatment will also need to be paid for.

For more information on costs and cost share programmes, click here.

Roche’s Cost Share Programme for MabThera

Roche has a cost share programme to help with the cost of MabThera for those who need it. Find out more.

Talking to Your Doctor About Whether MabThera is Right for You

Deciding whether to pay for treatment is a big decision and it’s one that requires careful thought.

MabThera is not a cure, but it may give you more time before your cancer grows and spreads. For many people, MabThera 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 Mabthera. 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. Have a look at these here.

If you’re considering Mabthera and you want to want to know more about private providers, you can check out a list here.

More Information

If you’d like more information about Mabthera, you can look at the following:

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Helpful questions
to ask your doctor
MabThera Patient Information Book
MabThera Patient
Information Book
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Medsafe NZ Consumer
Information for MabThera