Date published: 
20 November 2019
Media type: 
Media release
General public

Australians living with non-small cell lung cancer and early stage acute lymphoblastic leukaemia will be able to access better treatment options with new listings on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) coming into effect on 1 December 2019.

More than 2,200 patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer will now be able to access Keytruda® (pembrolizumab) as a first line treatment in combination with chemotherapy.

This means most patients will not have to fail treatment with chemotherapy before accessing this game changing treatment for this condition.

Keytruda® belongs to a new class of immunotherapy medicines that supercharges the body’s own immune system to detect and fight cancer cells.

As a result of this listing, Australians with lung cancer will have the broadest access to Keytruda® in the world.

Patients may have otherwise paid up to $120,000 a year depending on their specific cancer subtype.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death and the fifth most common cancer diagnosed in Australia. It is responsible for almost one in five cancer deaths in Australia.

The existing listing of leukaemia medicine Blincyto® (blinatumomab) is also being extended from 1 December.

Blincyto® will now be available for the treatment of patients in the early stage of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, but have minimal residual disease (MRD).  A patient has MRD if they respond well to initial chemotherapy but a small number of cancer cells can still be detected.

Without PBS subsidy, approximately 86 patients would pay up to $150,000 for each course of treatment.

Each year in Australia, more than 3,700 people are diagnosed with a form of leukaemia, which is a cancer of the blood, and it is the most common type of cancer diagnosed in people under 24 years of age.

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia is a rare, life-threatening form of leukaemia that affects both adults and children.

Up to 450 Australians are diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia each year, and around half are children.

Each of these listings has been recommended by the independent Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee.

Since 2013, the Australian Government has approved more than 2,200 new or amended listings on the PBS.

This represents an average of around 30 new or amended PBS listings per month – or one each day – at an overall investment by the Government of $10.7 billion since 2013.

The Morrison Government’s commitment to ensuring that Australians can access affordable medicines, when they need them, remains rock solid.

Former ministers: