Drug subsidy gives hope to cancer sufferers

$187,000 to $6.30: Turnbull drug subsidy gives hope to cancer sufferers

Written by 
11 Oct 2017, 2:53 p.m

A breakthrough leukaemia and lymphoma drug that normally costs
$187,000 per treatment will become easily affordable under a new $460
million Turnbull government subsidy.

Ibrutinib, known as  Imbruvica, will cost patients $38.80 a script – or $6.30 for  concessional patients – once it is listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits
 Scheme from December 1.

The drug will be available to all  eligible patients with relapsed or refractory chronic lymphocytic  leukaemia (CLL) or small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL).

Minister Malcolm Turnbull will announce the listing on Monday, saying
the drug – considered significantly more effective than many of the
treatments already available through the PBS – will change lives.

new medicine provides an important new treatment option for Australian
patients and now, thanks to my government's commitment to the PBS, is
within reach for hundreds of Australian families," Mr Turnbull said.

Around 1000 Australians are expected to benefit from the drug every year.

Melbourne property developer Jim Coomes, 75, was given 18 months to
live when he was first diagnosed with CLL. That was four years ago.

hundreds of people with CLL he did not respond to regular chemotherapy.
The second treatment he tried came with side effects so severe it led
to a heart attack.

Things were looking grim until he was given compassionate access to a clinical trial of Imbruvica.

just been brilliant. It's given me my life back again. I can do all the
things I want to do. I buy green bananas again," he told Fairfax Media
with a laugh. "But seriously, I was at the point where I had stopped
buying new clothes because I didn't think I'd be around to wear them."

only minor side effects, Imbruvica allows Mr Coomes to "grasp life with
both hands". While he's not officially in remission, he feels so good
he's even started writing a historical novel set in the Victorian
goldfields – and hopes he'll be around to see it through to its

Sydney man Robert Domone, 68, was diagnosed with CLL
in 2011. His lymph nodes had swollen to the size of grapefruits and the
prognosis was not good – until he too got trial access to Imbruvica.

outlook was for two to three years of survival and I would have been in
and out of hospital with infections. And to get rid of the swelling I
probably would have had radiation. It would have been a very
uncomfortably existence and I don't expect I'd still be here," he said.

"I'm here because of Imbruvica."

just here, but in remission and physically active. Mr Domone bushwalks,
does yoga and helps teach disabled children to sail through charity

The Coalition has added about $7.5 billion worth of
medicines to the PBS since coming to government in 2013, including about
60 new cancer drugs.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said: "The
Turnbull government is guaranteeing Medicare and we're continuing to
make medicines available and affordable for Australians who need them."

Leukaemia experts welcomed the government's move.

Stephen Mulligan from Sydney's Royal North Shore Hospital called it a
"milestone that would be welcomed by patients and their families".
Associate Professor Constantine Tam from the Victorian Comprehensive
Cancer Centre said he was "delighted" the drug would finally be

CLL and SLL are types of cancer that affect white  blood cells, which are an important part of the immune system and help  protect our bodies against infection and disease.

In people with
CLL and SLL, the white cells become malignant and spread uncontrollably.
This can make people more susceptible to anaemia, recurrent infections,
bruising and bleeding. The diseases are most commonly diagnosed in
people over 60 and affects more men than women.

Ibrutinib works by blocking the signals that tell the white cells to multiply and spread uncontrollably.

The story $187,000 to $6.30: Turnbull drug subsidy gives hope to cancer sufferers first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

Article originally published by The Courier: http://www.thecourier.com.au/story/4973662/187000-to-630-turnbull-drug-subsidy-gives-hope-to-cancer-sufferers/?cs=7 

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