Pharmac eyes cancer drug after $39m boost

A $39 million boost to Pharmac's budget comes with the news a rival to advanced melanoma drug Keytruda has pole position for funding.

Source: ABC Australia

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman made the pre-budget announcement today, saying the $39m increase was part of a $124m hike over four years, which would take drug-buying agency's budget to a record $850m.

Pharmac says the money will allow it to look at seven new drugs, including Bristol Myers Squibb's Opdivo, a treatment for advanced melanoma.

The potentially life-saving drug Opdivo comes as patients await a decision on whether Pharmac will fund Keytruda. Source: 1 NEWS

Although Pharmac has only been looking at the drug since March, it's clinical data indicated more certain survival data, chief executive Stefan Crausaz says.

It costs about $7800 to treat a patient with Opdivo over a fortnight.

He would not say whether it was cheaper than expensive rival Keytruda.

Around 350 people are expected to be treated with Opdivo if funding is approved.

Pharmac is also looking at funding Viekira Pak and Harvoni, Hepatitis C drugs which have cure rates of over 90 per cent and which will treat around 29,000 people each year.

The government has been under pressure to fund an advanced melanoma treatment and a petition seeking funding for Keytruda drew 54,000 signatures.