Cancer patients to benefit from new PBS listings

Matt Woodley

4/04/2019 11:50:53 AM

More than $81 million will help subsidise medicines for Merkel cell carcinoma, and breast cancer patients will benefit from a newly-listed treatment.

Accessing PBS page
The two drugs being listed on the PBS is expected to help thousands of patients.

Rare and highly aggressive, Metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma has become the second most common cause of skin cancer death after melanoma.
It can be treated with avelumab (sold as Bavencio), an immunotherapy medicine designed to help the body’s immune system attack and destroy cancer cells.
Without a Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) subsidy, patients would need to pay approximately $150,000 per year for this treatment; however, from May, the medicine will be reduced to $40.30 per script, or $6.50 with a concession card.
People aged over 75 who have had a high level of sun exposure are most at risk of Metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma, and the listing is expected to benefit around 160 patients a year.
Palbociclib (sold as Ibrance) is also set to be listed in May for the treatment of hormone receptor-positive locally advanced inoperable or metastatic breast cancer. Hormone receptor-positive tumours are the most common form of breast cancer and account for most deaths from the disease.
Dr Alia Kaderbhai, Chair of the RACGP Specific Interests Breast Medicine network, told newsGP the listing is significant because breast cancer is the leading cause of death from malignant tumour among women globally, and the treatment would have otherwise been inaccessible for most patients.
‘The decision to list this new immunotherapy has the potential to save and prolong the lives of patients suffering from advanced disease,’ she said.
‘Our treatments have advanced significantly over the years, and the overall survival for breast cancer has improved dramatically, especially for early stage [1–2] disease. However, metastatic disease still remains a clinical challenge and is largely regarded as an incurable disease.
‘The drug has shown promising results, based on large phase three clinical trials, particularly in patients who have progressed after endocrine therapy.’
By inhibiting two proteins that drive the growth of tumour cells, palbociclib – used in combination with other medicines – slows the progression of breast cancers in some patients.
The approximately 3000 patients who are expected to benefit from this listing would otherwise have had to pay more than $55,000 a year for this treatment. Its inclusion on the PBS means the medicine will be available for $40.30 per script, or $6.50 for concession card holders.

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Dr Peter Rankin   5/04/2019 11:44:30 AM

The second most common cause of skin cancer death and under recognised is Squamous Cell Carcinoma not Merkel. Doesn’t fill us with confidence that the government or its advisers no what they are doing
Dr Pete

Roger Maynard   7/04/2019 1:52:45 AM

Thanks for the information