Blood cancer drug added to PBS

Hannah Ryan
(Australian Associated Press)

 

Australians suffering from one of the most common blood cancers will soon be able to access a new medicine that mobilises the patient’s own immune system to fight the disease.

Darzalex will be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme from January 1, federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced on Monday.

The medicine will be part of a second-line treatment for people with multiple myeloma, which is an incurable cancer of plasma cells found in bone marrow.

More than 2000 people are diagnosed with the illness in Australia every year, and around 18000 people are living with it at any one time. The five-year survival rate is just 51 per cent.

The medicine is expected to improve clinical outcomes and quality of life for patients, Mr Hunt said, estimating 1,165 people will benefit from the treatment.

Professor H Miles Prince, Director of Molecular Oncology and Cancer Immunology Epworth Healthcare and of the Centre for Blood Cell Therapies at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne, welcomed the listing.

The medicine “targets the Achilles’ heel of the myeloma cancer cell, while simultaneously activating the body’s immune system to attack the cancer,” he said.

“This is the first time we have been able to directly target myeloma cancer cells, while also putting the immune system to work against the cancer.”

A Darzalex script will cost $41.30, or $6.60 with a concession card. The medicine would otherwise cost up to $160,000.

The Australian Government has also approved the listing of a pill used to treat severe chronic psoriasis, an inflammatory skin condition.

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