Aussies to access subsidised cancer drug

Australia

Australians battling bladder cancer will be able to access a drug to be subsided on the national Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme to treat the life-threatening illness.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt is will announce on Sunday the price of immunotherapy, Keytruda, will be subsidised from March 1 for patients with advanced cancer which develops in the bladder and cannot be controlled by chemotherapy.

“There have been no new subsidised therapies for advanced bladder cancer for many years,” Olivia Newton-John Cancer Centre Associate Professor Andrew Weickhardt said in a statement.

“This PBS subsidy is hugely important for patients, who previously had to self-fund the medicine or were unable to access it.”

General patients would pay just $40.30 while those with a concession card will fork out $6.50 for each three-weekly dose of Keytruda.

The drug can also be used to treat advanced forms of melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer, head and neck cancer, and classical Hodgkin Lymphoma.

More than 2500 new cases of bladder cancer are diagnosed every year in Australia with about 1000 lives lost annually.

It has a five-year survival rate of 53 per cent compared to 90 per cent for breast cancer.

BEAT Bladder Cancer Australia president Adam Lynch, who lost his wife to the disease at age 45, said it was a “big day for Australians with advanced bladder cancer”.

MSD managing director Michael Azrak praised the federal government for its commitment to making innovative medicines available to those in genuine need.

“We are committed to ensuring the full potential of immunotherapy oncology treatment is realised for Australians impacted by this cancer,” Mr Azrak said.

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