Breast cancer experts have urged Pharmac to fast-track the drug Keytruda, for Kiwis with an aggressive form of breast cancer.

The drug is used to treat triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), and has been recommended by Pharmac’s cancer advisors to be funded for people with both early and advanced forms of the cancer.

Triple-negative breast cancer is a kind of breast cancer that does not have any of the receptors that are commonly found in breast cancer.

Pharmac needed to “act swiftly” to get the drug funded, Breast Cancer Foundation New Zealand’s chief executive Ah-Leen Rayner said.

“Keytruda is the first immunotherapy drug to offer TNBC patients hope — clinical trials have proven it can save and extend women’s lives.

“It’s really promising Pharmac recognises how desperately we need this drug funded and that Keytruda will particularly help Māori and Pasifika women, who are more at risk of dying from breast cancer, but we know Pharmac’s approval process could take years.”

Rayner said Kiwis were in “dire need” of the treatment now.

“New Zealand is already out of step with international best practice of using immunotherapy to treat TNBC. We’re urging Pharmac to give Keytruda the priority it deserves, and the government to increase Pharmac’s budget because without appropriate levels of investment, Pharmac’s list of approved drugs will remain meaningless.”