UPDATE : Wednesday, July 15, 2020
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Petitioner demands broader benefit for ovarian cancer drug Zejula
  • By Song Soo-youn
  • Published 2019.12.06 15:02
  • Updated 2019.12.06 15:02
  • comments 0

The government granted insurance benefit to Takeda's ovarian cancer treatment Zejula (ingredient: niraparib tosylate monohydrate) from December, but the scope of the benefit is too narrow, an online petitioner said.

The treatment is the first poly ADP-ribose polymerase (PARP) inhibitor to be used with or without a breast cancer gene (BRCA) mutation. However, the insurance benefit is available only for ovarian cancer patients with BRCA mutation. (Related news: Takeda's ovarian cancer drug Zejula to get insurance benefit)

The petitioner posted the demands on Cheong Wa Dae’s petition board on Tuesday, saying her mother was an ovarian cancer patient.

With the title, “Please let 91 percent of ovarian cancer patients who don’t have BRCA mutation use a new drug,” the petition earned over 12,000 signatures as of Friday.

“Ovarian cancer’s relative survival at five years is only 64 percent. Most patients with ovarian cancer have very few symptoms, and most of them go to the hospital after stage 3, and almost all patients with ovarian cancer experience relapse,” the petitioner said. “Because there are few patients with ovarian cancer, there is little new drug development, and there are few kinds of anticancer drugs to choose.”

The petitioner said she expected Zejula to be reimbursable for patients without BRCA mutation because the medication was almost the only drug to lower the risk of relapse in patients without BRCA mutation.

“Only 9 percent of ovarian cancer patients are known to have a BRCA mutation. However, those with BRCA mutation have already benefited from Lynparza, which has similar efficacy with Zejula, regardless of the medication period,” she said.

The petitioner went on to say she could not understand why the health and welfare ministry decided to grant reimbursement for Lynparza and Zejula only to patients with BRCA mutation, who account for only 9 percent of the total patients.

As a family of an ovarian cancer patient who has been waiting for the new drug Zejula to arrive in Korea, the ministry’s decision was very disappointing, she said.

If her mother takes Zejula without insurance coverage, she has to pay about 4.5 million won ($3,777) for the two drugs a month, she noted. “There will be virtually no patient who can take such expensive medicines without any financial burden for more than a year,” she said.


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