PETALING JAYA: Good news for patients who could not afford an exorbitant medicine for an aggressive type of breast cancer.
The Health Ministry has approved the biosimilar version of trastuzumab (a monoclonal antibody), a targeted therapy, for women with HER2-positive breast cancer patients, said Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad.
"We have approved the biosimilar," he said, adding that the biosimilar drug will be made available in the ministry's Medicines Formulary sometime next year though he does not have the exact date.
The Health Minister said this at a press conference after the Targeted Therapy Welfare Fund for Breast Cancer launch here on Monday (Dec 10).
It cost HER2-positive patients a whopping RM130,000 for a year's treatment (17 cycles) using the original trastuzumab and doctors believe the cost could be halved with the entry of biosimilars into the market.
In August, The Star reported that the biosimilar version of trastuzumab was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States in December last year, and Thailand had also registered the drug in that country.
But oncologists said the biosimilar drug had not been registered by the authorities here and urged for the registration to be expedited to enable them to help such patients.
It was estimated that one in five breast cancer patients was diagnosed with HER2 every year.
It was reported that trastuzumab can prolong the lives of HER2 patients by an average of three to five years but some had lived longer.
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