Media release: Pharmac proposal for lung cancer treatment funding

PHARMAC has reached provisional agreement with Roche to fund its immunotherapy Tecentriq (atezolizumab) as a second line treatment for advanced lung cancer. It is expected to be used by approximately 320 patients each year.   

Muelhaupt said the immunotherapies (novel new treatments that activate your own immune system to recognise and kill cancer cells) proposed by PHARMAC are currently used in most other developed countries.

“It’s wonderful news that New Zealanders could soon get access to the same modern treatments as lung cancer patients in other developed countries.

“I really want to acknowledge the work done by patient advocates in this space to create more awareness of the challenges associated with lung cancer.

“Roche is a leading provider of oncology medicines, so we’re very aware of the difference immunotherapy treatments can make to the future of people diagnosed with lung cancer.”

Muelhaupt says some of the biggest benefits likely to arise from the proposed treatments in New Zealand are improving outcomes for Māori and changing the social stigma of lung cancer.

“We think one of the socially beneficial changes brought by better treatment is a reduction in stigma of the disease, which alleviates some of the less visible burdens on patients.”

New Zealand Lung Cancer Statistics

Lung cancer disproportionately affects Māori (total age-standardised registrations of 68.4 cases per 100,000 in 2019  compared with non-Māori (23.3 cases per 100,000 in 2019)1. Over the period 2007 to 2017, age-and sex-standardised lung-cancer mortality rates were over three times higher in Māori than non-Māori2 The lung cancer 5-year survival rate for Māori is 5.4% (Stevens et al, 2010), just over half of the overall rate in NZ (10.2%)3

Of the 2000 people each year who are diagnosed with lung cancer in New Zealand, about 1 in 5 have never smoked4.

Notes to editors

To interview Alex Muelhaupt, please contact:

Sarah McMahon
Corporate Engagement Partner, Roche
+ 64 21 796 225
[email protected]

  1. Ministry of Health, 2021

  2. Te Ahu o Te Kahu, 2021

  3. Coleman et al, 2011


Tecentriq consumer panel

Tecentriq® (atezolizumab) 1200mg/20mL and 840mg/14ml is a Prescription Medicine used for early (has not spread to other parts of the body) and advanced or metastatic (has spread to other parts of the body) non-small cell lung cancer, extensive stage small-cell lung cancer, advanced or metastatic urothelial (bladder and urinary system) cancer, advanced or metastatic triple negative breast cancer and unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma.

Tell your doctor if: you have immune system problems such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or lupus; you have inflammation of the lungs (pneumonitis); you have liver problems, such as hepatitis; you have thyroid problems; you are taking other medicines; you have allergies to any other medicines, foods, preservatives or dyes; you are pregnant or breastfeeding or plan to become pregnant or breastfeed. Tell your doctor right away if you become pregnant during treatment with Tecentriq.

Tell your doctor immediately if you notice any of the following signs and symptoms: inflammation of the lungs (new or worsening cough, shortness of breath and chest pain); inflammation of the liver (yellowing of skin or eyes, nausea, vomiting, bleeding or bruising, dark urine, and stomach pain); inflammation of the intestines (diarrhoea, blood in stools, and stomach pain); inflammation of the thyroid, pituitary and adrenal glands (tiredness, weight loss, weight gain, changes in mood or behaviour, visual disturbances, increased sensitivity to cold or heat, slow or rapid heart rate, hair loss, constipation, headache, and dizziness); type 1 diabetes mellitus (feeling more hungry or thirsty than usual, need to urinate more often, weight loss, and feeling tired); inflammation of the brain or spinal cord (neck stiffness, headache, fever, chills, vomiting, eye sensitivity to light, confusion and sleepiness); inflammation of the nerves (muscle weakness, numbness or tingling in hands and feet); inflammation of the pancreas (abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting); inflammation of the heart muscle (shortness of breath, feeling tired, irregular heart beat or chest pain); inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart (chest pain, difficulty and/or painful breathing, pounding/racing heart beat, fainting and/or light-headedness, swelling of legs or abdomen, pale and/or clammy skin); inflammation of the kidneys (dark and/or frothy urine, high blood pressure, swelling to face, feet, legs and hands; inflammation of muscles (muscle pain or stiffness or skin rash); infusion reactions (fever, chills, shortness of breath and flushing), or any inflammation of the skin.

Possible common side effects may also include: loss of appetite; diarrhoea; shortness of breath; itching of the skin; dry skin; rash; nausea; fever; chills; vomiting; difficulty swallowing; flu-like symptoms; nasal congestion; stomach, back, muscle, bone, joint or throat pain; cough; sore throat; tiredness; common cold; headaches; being short of breath when exercising; urinary tract infection; lung infection; dizziness, light-headedness, looking pale, fainting; bleeding or bruising; mouth ulcers and/or cold sores; constipation; numbness or weakness of the arms and legs; high blood pressure; hair loss; a change in the way things taste.

Tecentriq has risks and benefits .Ask your doctor if Tecentriq is right for you. Use strictly as directed. If symptoms continue or you have side effects, see your healthcare professional. For further information on Tecentriq, please talk to your health professional or visit for Tecentriq Consumer Medicine Information.


About Roche

For more than 120 years, Roche has been committed to improving lives. Headquartered in Basel,   Switzerland, Roche continues to search for better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat diseases and  make a sustainable contribution to society. We have one purpose: to do now what patients need next.

We have had a presence in New Zealand since 1973 and operate across two key businesses, Roche  Pharmaceuticals and Roche Diagnostics. The ultimate aim of our almost 100 employees across the country is to enable New Zealand patients to gain access to our medicines and diagnostic tests in order  to detect illnesses early, and to treat them with life-saving and life-changing medicines.

New Zealanders have access to 27 Roche medicines, 19 of which are funded by PHARMAC. Beyond this, New Zealand plays an important role in the global research and development (R&D) network for Roche.  In fact, Roche is the largest investor in clinical trials in New Zealand, investing more than $17 million  over the last 20 years in clinical trials across a range of disease areas.  No  matter which part of the business we work, our team understands that life changing discoveries will only matter if the right medicines get to the right patients.

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