Media release: New funding for immunotherapy treatment for NZ lung cancer patients

Roche and Pharmac have formalised an agreement to fund immunotherapy Tecentriq® (atezolizumab) as a second line treatment for some patients with advanced lung cancer. The new funding means New Zealand lung cancer patients now have access to the same modern treatments as patients in other developed countries.

The decision went to consultation in December 2022 and the Pharmac Board has now confirmed funding. It is estimated that over 300 patients with advanced lung cancer who have received prior chemotherapy treatment will benefit in the first year.

Muelhaupt says it is great for patients that this treatment is now available in New Zealand.

“It’s fantastic news that Kiwis will soon have access to the same modern treatments as lung cancer patients in other developed nations.”

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

“We hope better treatment will reduce the stigma associated with the disease, alleviating some of the less visible burden on patients.

“Roche is committed to making an impact for patients and improving inequities in health outcomes, and our approach is to work in partnership with all areas of the health sector to help make this happen.”

Muelhaupt says he wants to acknowledge patient advocates such as Philip Hope, Chief Executive Officer of the Lung Foundation NZ, for the work done in this space.

“There has been a lot of dedicated work done by patient advocates to create more awareness of the challenges that have been associated with accessing treatments for lung cancer.

Hope says: “This funding decision meets the greatest treatment need right now and will improve outcomes for lung cancer, which kills five people in New Zealand every day; more than breast cancer, prostate cancer and melanoma combined.

“Our cause acknowledges the leaders and clinical advisors at Pharmac and the key people at Roche for getting Tecentriq across the line and for charting a much better future for lung cancer in New Zealand.

“Access to treatment is access to life and all patients diagnosed with lung cancer deserve to thrive.”

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). Over the period 2007 to 2017, age-and sex-standardised lung-cancer mortality rates were over three times higher in Māori than non-Māori 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%)

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


Notes to editors

To interview Alex Muelhaupt, please contact:

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

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.

  1. Ministry of Health, 2021

  2. Te Ahu o Te Kahu, 2021

  3. Coleman et al, 2011


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), excessive activation of the immune system (fever, swollen lymph nodes, skin rash, yellowing of skin and eyes, coughing, difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhoea headache, changes in vision, weakness), paralysis of the facial muscles, inflammation of the spinal cord (muscle weakness in the legs and arms, numbness, problems with mobility, the bladder and bowel) 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.

Tecentriq is Pharmac funded for patients with locally advanced or metastatic NSCLC that have previously received chemotherapy. A prescription charge and normal oncologist fees may apply.

Tecentriq is not Pharmac funded for urothelial cancer, breast cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma and other lung cancer indications. You will need to pay the full cost of this medicine. A prescription charge and normal oncologist fees may apply.

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.

Roche Products (New Zealand) Limited, Auckland. Phone 0800 656 464. All trademarks mentioned herein are protected by law. M-NZ-00000663 /TAPS MR9010/MARCH2023

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