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30 Jul 2019

The Federal Government will invest $56 million to provide affordable access to four new medicine listings through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), for patients fighting aggressive forms of cancer and inflammatory conditions.

Under the PBS, treatment for brain tumours, leukaemia and inflammatory disease of the large blood vessels will be available to patients for $40.30 per script, or $6.50 with a concession card.

The new PBS listings from August 1 include: 

  • Avastin® (bevacizumab) will be extended on the PBS, to help treat patients living with refractory glioblastoma, brain tumours that are resistant to previous treatments.
    • Bevacizumab targets a cancer cell protein called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF).
    • This protein helps cancers to grow blood vessels, so they can get food and oxygen from the blood. All cancers need a blood supply to be able to survive and grow.
    • Bevacizumab blocks this protein and stops the cancer from growing blood vessels, so it is starved and can't grow.
    • More than 900 Australians living with an aggressive form of brain cancer, will benefit from Avastin.
    • Without PBS subsidy, the drug could cost up to $31,200 per course of treatment.
  • Sprycel® (dasatinib) will be extended on the PBS to include newly diagnosed Philadelphia chromosome positive acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), a cancer of white blood cells in the bone marrow.
    • This is the first time in the world that this medicine has been reimbursed by a Government for patients with this form of Leukaemia.
    • The condition is a genetic abnormality which can cause cells to mutate and become cancerous.
    • Philadelphia-positive ALL is rare in children and relatively uncommon in adults.
    • This medicine is designed to kill the leukaemia cells in the bone marrow and allow normal red and white cell and platelet production to resume.
    • It is expected that 80 patients per year will benefit from this listing.
    • Without PBS subsidy patients would pay more than $51,900 per year for this treatment.
  • Actemra® (tocilizumab) is being listed on the PBS for the treatment of giant cell arteritis.
    • This is an inflammatory disease affecting the large blood vessels of the scalp, neck and arms.
    • This listing could benefit an average of 852 patients per year, who would pay over $10,200 per course of treatment.
    • Giant cell arteritis is a particular kind of inflammation of the arteries that requires urgent treatment.
    • The inflammation causes the artery to narrow, which reduces the blood supply to the area. In severe cases, the blood vessel closes completely.
    • Although any medium or large-sized artery can develop this condition, those of the temples are most commonly targeted.
    • Giant cell arteritis can cause permanent damage such as blindness if not treated and the average age at diagnosis is 70 years of age.
    • Actrema works by binding and blocking specific proteins helping to relieve some of the signs and symptoms of this condition.
  • Somatuline®, Autogel® (lanreotide) for non-functional gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumour (GEP-NETs) is being extended to include access through community pharmacy in addition to hospitals.
    • These are tumours that are formed in the pancreas or other parts of the gastrointestinal tract in cells that secrete hormones.
    • Somatuline Autogel was listed for GEP-NETs from December 1, 2018, at that time 760 patients per year were expected to benefit from that listing saving them up to $23,000 a year.
    • The current listing is now being extended to include supply through the community pharmacy, so that patients can access their medicine from their local community pharmacy.
    • GEP-NETs are a relatively rare condition, with an estimated incidence of 3.3 newly diagnosed cases per 100,000 people each year.
    • Somatuline Autogel works by lowering the level of hormones in the body.

Every medicine was recommended to be added to the PBS by the independent expert Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee.

By law the Federal Government cannot list a new medicine without a positive recommendation from the PBAC.

“Our commitment to the PBS is rock solid. Together with Medicare, it is a foundation of our world-class healthcare system,” said Health Minister Greg Hunt.  



Published: 30 Jul 2019