From 1 September 2023, Australians with an aggressive form of breast cancer and certain types of leukaemia will have access to new treatment options under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
The life changing treatment Pembrolizumab (Keytruda) is being expanded to patients with locally recurrent unresectable or metastatic triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) that expresses a particular protein called PD-L1.
TNBC is an aggressive form of cancer that accounts for around 15 per cent of breast cancers, with higher rates in women under 50 years.
An average of 490 patients each year could benefit from this expanded listing. Without subsidy patients might pay around $243,000 per course of treatment.
It is estimated over 5,000 Australians are diagnosed with a form of leukaemia each year. Leukaemia refers to a group of blood cancers that develop in the bone marrow.
Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) is a fast developing cancer with about 900 new diagnoses in Australia each year. Azacitidine (Onureg) will be listed on the PBS as maintenance therapy for patients with AML who achieve complete remission following induction chemotherapy, and who do not proceed to stem cell transplantation.
This listing is expected to benefit around 130 patients per year. Without PBS subsidy patients might pay $156,200 per year of treatment.
Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) and small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL) are slow growing rare cancers that affect lymphocytes (B-cells) in the blood. Each year in Australia, about 1,300 people are diagnosed with CLL or SLL.
The PBS listing of zanubrutinib (Brukinsa) will be expanded for patients with CLL and SLL both as a first-line treatment, and for relapsed or refractory disease.
In 2022, around 880 patients accessed a comparable treatment in the first-line setting through the PBS. Without PBS subsidy, patients might pay up to $96,500 per year of this life changing treatment.
Since July 2022, the Australian Government has approved extra funding for 114 new and amended listings on the PBS.
Quotes attributable to Minister Butler:
“Without PBS subsidy these innovative, highly specialised drugs are unaffordable to the great majority of sick Australians.
“But from 1 September, people battling certain leukemia cancers or an aggressive form of breast cancer will be able to get the best possible medication.
“The Australian Government is committed to making medicines cheaper and more affordable for all Australians, and to giving people with cancer the best possible care and support.”