Health Minister Tony Ryall has refused to release the cost to
the Government of the 12-month Herceptin programme because he
says it is not in the public interest.
In response to questions first raised by the Otago Daily
Times on September 24, Health Minister Tony Ryall has now
advised public interest in releasing the information about
the cost of the breast cancer drug was considered, but it was
determined this did not outweigh the reasons for withholding
He cited a section of the Official Information Act as grounds
for withholding the information, which referred to protecting
information which was subject to an obligation of confidence.
Making available such information would likely prejudice
supply of similar information and that would not be in the
The ODT is seeking a review of this decision by the Office of
the Ombudsmen on grounds it is in the public interest.
The Government began funding 12-month Herceptin treatment
when it came into office.
Before the election it advised it would spend an extra $9
million a year for three years.
In December, Mr Ryall advised the Government was providing
additional funding up to $3.6 million a year to support the
extra district health board costs of administering the drug.
The extension to 12-month treatment would involve extra staff
and equipment because patients needed extra clinic visits.
The drug's cost was commercially sensitive, he said then.
In a media release last month he said the 12-month course was
being funded from the extra $40 million the Government was
spending on medicines this year.
The move to fund the 12-month treatment was outside the usual
process of the drug-purchasing agency Pharmac, which opted
for a nine-week course and advised before the election that
even if it had extra funding, the 12-month treatment would
not be a priorityAt the end of September, 191 women were on
the 12-month Herceptin programme for women with
Her-2-positive breast cancer.
Another 37 were on the nine-week course.
The number of patients taking up the 12-month treatment had
been at the level estimated by the Ministry of Health, he
Fewer women than expected had opted for the nine-week
treatment in 2008 and 2009 and to date more women than
expected had opted for the nine-week treatment this financial
Asked what would happen if more women than expected sought
Herceptin treatment and the costs went above those originally
allocated, Mr Ryall said the Ministry of Health would fund it
from its risk reserves.
Last December, he said it was expected that up to 300 women a
year would receive the 12-month treatment.
Reports before the election suggested women who were paying
for their own year-long treatment had each been spending
between $50,000 and $120,000 for that treatment.