PBS listing of cancer drugs

On Sunday, July 15, the government announced a $250 million investment to list cancer medicines Opdivo, Imbruvica, Neulasta and Pegasys on the PBS from August 1, saving patients thousands of dollars a year.

In some cases, the listing of these new medicines will save patients more than $130,000 a year.

Almost 1,000 patients with squamous cell carcinoma, a type of cancer most commonly occurring on the head and neck, who would otherwise pay almost $50,000 per year for Opdivo, will now have it subsidised.

Around 220 patients with relapsed or refractory mantle cell lymphoma, a subtype of lymphoma cancer, will benefit from the listing of Imbruvica, as they would otherwise pay $134,000 for a year’s treatment. Imbruvica works by targeting, reducing and in some cases killing cancerous cells.

The Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson’s Imbruvica is a first-in-class targeted cancer therapy that significantly improves progression-free survival (compared to temsirolimus) in patients with a rare, clinically aggressive and incurable form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The therapy is already reimbursed in Australia for the treatment of patients with relapsed or refractory chronic lymphocytic leukaemia or small lymphocytic lymphoma who are unsuitable for treatment with a purine analogue.

More than 1,500 patients who are receiving chemotherapy for cancer treatment will benefit from Neulasta, which helps the body to make new neutrophils, a type of white blood cell.

Chemotherapy sometimes damages and depletes neutrophils, and Neulasta is aimed at preventing this condition, helping the patient to fight off infection by creating new white blood cells. This would otherwise cost a patient $4,700 for a course of treatment.

Around 1,125 patients with myeloproliferative neoplasms, a rare type of leukaemia, who would otherwise pay more than $18,000 per year, will now benefit from the listing of Pegasys.

The medicine, which has anti-viral and anti-proliferative properties, strengthens the body’s immune system to fight infections and diseases.

PSA National President Dr Shane Jackson says these significant commitments to healthcare management and medicines affordability will support pharmacists, as the medicines experts, to provide ongoing patient care.

“These announcements are a major breakthrough for Australia’s healthcare system,” he said.

“The new PBS listings will give Australians fast and affordable access to life-saving medicines through their local pharmacist.”