Kiwis with incurable blood cancer to receive new subsidised treatment

29 June 2020


New Zealanders living with the incurable blood cancer, multiple myeloma, can now access a new treatment option following the decision by PHARMAC to subsidise REVLIMID® (lenalidomide) for maintenance treatment.

REVLIMID® (lenalidomide) represents New Zealand’s first and only maintenance treatment specifically indicated and reimbursed for those with newly diagnosed multiple myeloma (NDMM) who have undergone an autologous stem cell transplant (ASCT).

Consultant Haematologist and Myeloma New Zealand founder, Dr Ken Romeril, welcomed the availability of a new treatment option for the incurable disease and called for continued timely and improved access to best practice treatment options for those living with multiple myeloma.

“The journey of multiple myeloma patients follows a pattern of Response, Remission and Relapse. Timely access to treatment options is therefore required throughout the patient journey, for both the newly diagnosed, and those who have already commenced therapy.

“Continuing to improve access to treatment may help to further improve quality of life and overall survival for New Zealanders living with multiple myeloma. We hope one day, this disease will be treated as a chronic rather than terminal disease,” Dr Romeril said.

Not to be confused with the skin cancer, melanoma, multiple myeloma is an incurable blood cancer that develops from plasma cells, a type of white blood cell found in the bone marrow.
Multiple myeloma represents New Zealand’s second most common blood cancer (after non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma). An estimated 2,500 New Zealanders currently live with myeloma, with higher rates among Māori and Pasifika communities.

Due to the incurable nature of myeloma, the fear of relapse can carry a high emotional burden for patients, even during periods of remission.With studies revealing more than half (52%) of those living with multiple myeloma experience symptoms of anxiety or depression, widening access to treatment and extending time spent in remission may help to improve psychological wellbeing.

According to Tania Crosbie, whose husband, Paul, was diagnosed with myeloma in 2014, the reimbursement of an additional treatment option for multiple myeloma is a long-awaited step-forward for the New Zealand myeloma community.

“For years, New Zealand has been lagging behind the rest of the world in the treatment of multiple myeloma, with therapy options financially out of reach for many families.

“The reimbursement of an additional treatment option in the maintenance setting is welcomed news for the myeloma community, as improved access to therapy options is what gives families, like ours, more time with their loved ones.

“We also hope to see more announcements in the coming months to address the very high unmet need for those myeloma patients with relapsed disease,” said Mrs Crosbie.