Patients and politicians who lobbied hard for the melanoma drug Keytruda to be publicly funded may be about to have their wish fulfilled.
The Government’s drug funding agency Pharmac, which recently announced a decision to fund the alternative drug nivolumab (Opdivo) for patients with advanced melanoma from next month, has announced a provisional deal with the maker of Keytruda.
In a statement on its website it said it had “reached a commercially favourable provisional agreement with Merck Sharpe and Dohme (MSD)… for the supply of pembrolizumab (Keytruda)” and was seeking feedback on a proposal to fund it “for patients with advanced melanoma, subject to Special Authority criteria”.
I can almost guarantee you this will be at a very significantly cheaper rate than they previously sought.
When a drug company has the only product on the market they will seek a huge price for that. That is of course their right and in their best interests. And when Pharmac won’t pay it, they often will try and create a campaign to build public support for it, so they are in a strong bargaining position.
By not having politicians over-ride Pharmac (as Little demanded), Pharmac announced a funding deal with a alternative drug that had now reached an acceptable stage. And suddenly as there is an alternative, the price for Keytruda will become more flexible and MSD decides better to have some of the market for this sort of drug at a reduced rate, rather than none of the market at their original rate.
Now I don’t blame MSD. They act in their own best interests as they should. But a good lesson as to why politicans (and National have sinned here also) should not over-ride Pharmac on the back of a lobbying campaign.