$200 million for cancer medicines on the PBS to support patients in New England

24 Feb 2019

The Liberal National Government is investing more than $200 million to list four new breakthrough cancer treatments on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), saving patients up to a quarter of a million dollars a year.


Member for New England, Barnaby Joyce, said almost 1,800 eligible patients with leukaemia, advanced kidney cancer, bladder cancer and liver cancer will have new and innovative treatment options that have the potential to save and extend the lives of thousands of Australians and pay a little as $6.50 a script.


The new PBS cancer listings from 1 March 2019 include:


Venclexta® (venetoclax), which will be listed on the PBS for the first time for people with relapsed or refractory chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL), a slow-growing cancer that affects white blood cells. The medicine blocks a protein that helps the cancer cells to survive and may slow the spread of the cancer. It is expected 420 patients each year will benefit from this important listing. Without the PBS subsidy, they would have to pay around $7,000 per script or $165,000 per course of treatment over a two year period. This has the potential to improve the lives of some patients with CLL who will be given a new treatment option. The anti-cancer drug venetoclax was developed at Melbourne’s own Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research.


Combination therapy Opdivo® (nivolumab) and Yervoy® (ipilimumab) will become available for the previously untreated stage IV clear cell variant renal cell carcinoma, an advanced type of kidney cancer. More than 300 patients a year will be able to access this treatment that helps the immune system attack and destroy cancer cells. The PBS subsidy means they will not need to pay $254,200 per course of treatment.


Keytruda® (pembrolizumab) will become available for patients with locally advanced or metastatic urothelial cancer, which is a cancer of the urinary system that has spread or cannot be removed by surgery.  This medicine helps make cancer cells more vulnerable to attack by the body’s own immune system. This is the first PBS immunotherapy treatment for this condition. More than 430 patients each year will be able to access this medicine through the PBS instead of paying more than $91,000 per course of treatment.


Lenvima® (lenvatinib) will be available for patients with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer).  This medicine may slow the rate at which the cancer cells multiply and the tumour grows. Without PBS subsidy, approximately 618 patients would pay $9,600 per script or more than $62,000 per course of treatment.


Mr Joyce said unlike Labor, the Coalition Government is subsidising all drugs recommended by the independent medical experts.

“Since 2013, our Government has added more than 2,000 new or amended items on the PBS,” Mr Joyce said.


“This represents an average of around 30 listings per month—or one each day— at an overall cost of around $10.6 billion.


“Just as how I’m continuing my fight to bring a new Medicare-supported MRI licence to the New England, so more people can access this life-saving technology in our region, our commitment to the PBS is rock solid. Together with Medicare, it is a foundation of our world-class health care system.”


Health Minister Greg Hunt said from 1 March this year, patients will be able to access all of these medicines for just $40.30 per script, or $6.50 with a concession card.


“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,” Minister Hunt said.



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