UPDATED 6.22PM A breakthrough melanoma drug has been approved for use in New Zealand, but looks to be just as expensive as its rival Keytruda.
LISTEN ABOVE: Cancer Society medical director Dr Chris Jackson speaks to Larry Williams
Opdivo, or Nivolumab, has been approved by MedSafe for use by patients with advanced melanoma and two types of lung cancer.
The melanoma drug is expected to cost tens of thousands of dollars, and Pharmac says it's seeking expert clinical advice on whether to fund the drug.
Like Keytruda, it's part of a new generation of immunotherapy drugs which have been described as “taking the brakes off the immune system”.
They interfere with a tumour’s ability to hide from the immune system, allowing the system to get on with its job of recognising and killing cancer cells.
Pharmac confirmed the medicine’s manufacturer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, has made an application for the medicine to be state-funded.
It expects to have an update on its assessment in the coming weeks.