KEYTRUDA and the
immune system

KEYTRUDA supports the immune system to help find and fight cancer cells

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How to access KEYTRUDA

If KEYTRUDA is a potential treatment for your patient but they have a cancer type other than melanoma, and don’t qualify for PHARMAC funding, here are some other avenues to consider:

  • Health insurance: Around 1.4 million New Zealanders have health insurance, which is approximately 30% of the population. If they have health insurance, they can check with their provider to find out if any of their cancer care is covered.
  • Life insurance or trauma cover: Often life insurance and trauma cover policies will provide some or all of the cost of cancer treatment, so it is worth patients checking with providers about what cover they have.
  • KiwiSaver: If an individual suffers serious illness (permanent and total disability or risk of death) they can withdraw all KiwiSaver money. They will need to supply medical evidence to their KiwiSaver provider’s trustee to support their application for withdrawal.
  • ACC: If the patient has had a previous misdiagnosis (also known as “treatment injury”), delayed diagnosis or probable occupational exposure, ACC may be an option for providing funding for KEYTRUDA.
  • Crowd funding: Some patients have raised money for treatments through crowd funding websites such as Givealittle.
  • Reverse mortgages: Some banks offer reverse mortgages against property to allow New Zealanders to free up equity to use when needed.
  • Private Providers: KEYTRUDA is not funded in New Zealand for all registered indications. Patients may need to see a private provider to have KEYTRUDA prescribed for any cancer type other than melanoma. A list of private cancer care centres across New Zealand is available here.
  • Clinical trials: KEYTRUDA is being studied across more than 30 types of cancer and more than 4,000 patients are estimated to be enrolled in these trials. Patients may be eligible for a current clinical trial either in New Zealand or overseas www.clinicaltrials.gov.
  • MSD Patient Programmes: MSD run patient programmes to help patients access KEYTRUDA treatment. These two letters provide information for patients that you have discussed KEYTRUDA with and those that are enrolled in the programme. For further details about these programmes email dpoc.nz@merck.com.
  • Letters also available in Mandarin.

  • What can you do to improve funding for KEYTRUDA?

    If you feel funding for KEYTRUDA should be broadened, you can help to support your patients by making a funding application to PHARMAC. Anyone can make a submission for the funding of a medicine by completing the online form available at www.pharmac.govt.nz/medicines/how-medicines-are-funded/new-funding-applications.

    Other information about the cost of KEYTRUDA treatment

    When patients receive treatment privately, the cost of KEYTRUDA is just one part of the total costs. Cost components can also include: courier to transport KEYTRUDA, reconstitution for infusion, dispensing fee, clinic time and administration fees. Other charges may also apply. It is essential for patients to be aware of all cost implications prior to proceeding. In some indications the number of vials needed to treat will depend on the patient’s weight (eg melanoma), other indications follow a flat dose regimen (eg urothelial). KEYTRUDA is given via an infusion every three weeks, until disease progression.1

    Reference: 1. KEYTRUDA Data Sheet.


Online enrolment and ordering for the Patient Programme
is under development.
To register a patient or request resupply please contact dpoc.nz@merck.com

KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab) 50mg powder for infusion

Before prescribing KEYTRUDA, read the data sheet for information on dosage, contraindications, precautions, interactions and adverse effects available at www.medsafe.govt.nz or on request from Merck Sharp & Dohme (New Zealand) Limited. Prescription Only Medicine Indication: As monotherapy for the treatment of unresectable or metastatic melanoma in adults. In combination with pemetrexed and platinum chemotherapy for first-line treatment of metastatic non-squamous NSCLC, with no EGFR or ALK genomic tumour aberrations. As monotherapy for first-line treatment of patients with metastatic NSCLC whose tumours express PD-L1 ≥50% tumour proportion score (TPS) on a validated test, with no EGFR or ALK genomic tumour aberrations. As monotherapy for the treatment of patients with advanced NSCLC with a PD-L1 TPS level ≥1% and who have received platinum-containing chemotherapy. Patients with EGFR or ALK genomic tumour aberrations should have received prior therapy for these aberrations prior to receiving KEYTRUDA. As monotherapy for refractory/ relapsed classical Hodgkin Lymphoma (cHL). As monotherapy for patients with locally advanced/ metastatic urothelial carcinoma who are not eligible for cisplatin-containing chemotherapy, or who have received platinum-containing chemotherapy. See full data sheet. Contraindications: None. Precautions: Immune-mediated adverse reactions, including pneumonitis, colitis, hepatitis, nephritis, hypophysitis, type 1 diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, thyroiditis, uveitis, myositis, Guillain-Barre syndrome, pancreatitis, encephalitis, sarcoidosis, myasthenic syndrome, severe skin reactions (including Stevens-Johnson syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis), and severe infusion reactions including hypersensitivity and anaphylaxis. Severe and fatal cases of immune-mediated adverse reactions have occurred. Increased mortality when in combination with dexamethasone and a thalidomide analogue in multiple myeloma (not indicated). Immune-mediated adverse reactions affecting more than one body system can occur simultaneously. For management of immune-mediated adverse events, see full data sheet. Limited information in patients with active infection and patients with on-going adverse reaction to ipilimumab – use caution. Acute graft-versus-host-disease (potentially fatal) in patients with history of allogeneic HSCT. Post-marketing: solid organ transplant rejection and myocarditis. See full data sheet for further information. Interactions: None expected. Avoid corticosteroids or immunosuppressants prior to treatment. Side effects: Clinical trials (treatment-related only): nasopharyngitis, anaemia, neutropenia, hypothyroidism, decreased appetite, dizziness, headache, cough, dyspnea, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, erythema, pruritus, rash, vitiligo, arthralgia, back pain, myalgia, pain in extremity, asthenia, chills, fatigue, oedema peripheral, pyrexia, colitis, hepatitis, hyperthyroidism, hypophysitis, nephritis, pneumonitis, type 1 diabetes mellitus, adrenal insufficiency, autoimmune hepatitis, alopecia, upper respiratory tract infection. Dosage and administration: The recommended dose of KEYTRUDA is 200 mg for previously untreated NSCLC, cHL, and urothelial carcinoma, and 2 mg/kg or 200 mg for melanoma or previously treated NSCLC (administered as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes every 3 weeks). KEYTRUDA should be administered first when given in combination with pemetrexed and platinum chemotherapy. Treat with KEYTRUDA until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity. Atypical responses (i.e. an initial transient increase in tumour size or small new lesions followed by shrinkage) have been observed. Clinically stable patients (i.e. asymptomatic and not requiring urgent intervention) with initial evidence of progression can remain on treatment until confirmed. See full data sheet for further information, including details on PD-L1 testing. KEYTRUDA is a funded medicine for melanoma patients– restrictions apply. KEYTRUDA is a private purchase medicine for NSCLC, cHL and urothelial carcinoma patients. Based on data sheet prepared 08 June 2018.

Copyright © 2018 Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., a subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, NJ, USA. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2018 Merck Sharp & Dohme (New Zealand) Limited. Level 3, 123 Carlton Gore Road, Newmarket, Auckland. All rights reserved.
ONCO-1230760-0024 DA1827MW First Issued October 2015 Updated: August 2018
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