News

Cheaper treatments for cancer, Parkinson’s and motor neurone patients


Matt Woodley


19/03/2019 2:01:48 PM

Changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme will see some patients saving up to $300,000 per year.

Patient with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
The PBS listing means people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis can save thousands when accessing the drug riluzole .

Approximately $19 million will be spent annually to broaden the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) listing of brentuximab vedotin (sold as adcetris) to include treatment of cutaneous T-cell lymphomas (CTCL).
 
The rare disease affects between 150 and 200 people per year, and is caused by the cancerous growth of T-cells. CTCL is sometimes confused with eczema, as patients can suffer from itchy, rash-like symptoms across the body, meaning it can often go undiagnosed for some time.
 
However, the combined immunotherapy and chemotherapy brentuximab vedotin targets and kills the certain specific cells that cause the life-threatening symptoms.
 
Associate Professor Joel Rhee, Chair of the RACGP Cancer and Palliative Care Specific Interests network, told newsGP the listing is a ‘welcome announcement’ for most patients who otherwise cannot afford this type of treatment, which can cost up to $300,000 a year for some.
 
‘GPs have an important role in the assessment and diagnosis of cancers, including rare types such as CTCL, which is often diagnosed through a skin biopsy,’ he said.
 
‘GPs should familiarise themselves with immunotherapy, especially their side effects and potential complications, as they become an integral part of cancer care.’
 
CTCL is generally more common in men and usually affects people aged 40–60 years old, around 60 of whom would need to pay up to $300,000 annually to access treatment prior to the medicine’s listing. The PBS listing means the price of brentuximab vedotin will drop to $40.30 per script, or $6.50 with a concession card.
 
Around 11,000 Parkinson’s disease patients are also expected to access newly-listed safinamide (sold as xadago), which increases the level of dopamine in the brain to help lessen symptoms. Without the PBS subsidy, patients would have to pay more than $1400 per year for treatment.
 
Riluzole (sold as teglutik) will also be listed on the PBS for the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a form of motor neurone disease that can cause muscle degeneration.
 
More than 1300 patients are expected to benefit from the medicine, which aims to prevent nerve cells being damaged by stopping the release of a chemical messenger in the brain. Prior to its listing, a year’s supply of riluzole would cost around $2900.
 
Both safinamide and riluzole will now also be available for $40.30 per script, or $6.50 with a concession card.

Patients will be able to access these medications on the PBS from 1 April.



amyotrophic lateral sclerosis cutaneous T-cell lymphomas Parkinson’s disease PBS Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme





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