Thursday, December 7, 2023

Cheaper medicines for graft versus host disease, chronic rhinosinusitis and oesophageal cancer

Australians with acute or chronic graft versus host disease, chronic rhinosinusitis, and oesophageal cancer or gastro-oesophageal junction cancer now have access to new and updated medicines under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).   

For the first time, Jakavi® (ruxolitinib) will be listed for the treatment of patients with either acute graft versus host disease (GVHD), or moderate to severe chronic GVHD who do not respond to, are dependent on, or intolerant of corticosteroids.  

GVHD is a serious complication of stem cell transplants and can be fatal with nearly half of stem cell transplant patients experiencing GVHD. There is currently no established standard of care for patients who do not adequately respond to first-line steroid treatment.

Around 225 patients living with acute or chronic GVHD will benefit from this new treatment option each year. Without subsidy, patients might pay over $30,000 per year for treatment.

“The listings of these medicines on the PBS will be life changing for patients across Australia,” said Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler.

“Time is of the essence for patients living with GVHD and their caregivers, who have had no other, or limited, treatment options until now.”

Nucala® (mepolizumab) is being expanded to include PBS subsidy for the treatment of chronic rhinosinusitis with nasal polyps.  

Chronic rhinosinusitis is a common respiratory disease that affects one in ten Australians. The condition causes a persistent and often painful infection or irritation of the sinuses that causes swelling, nasal congestion, and reduces sense of smell, which together with nasal polyps (growths of the sinus lining), can be debilitating for patients. 

This new listing will benefit over 4,000 patients per year, who without subsidy, might pay around $15,000 per course of treatment.  

“Chronic rhinosinusitis with nasal polyps can be debilitating causing pain, impacting people sleeping, their mental health and productivity,” said Minister Butler. 

“Instead of spending tens of thousands of dollars on treatments the Government has listed these medicines on the PBS so patients will only pay a maximum of $30 per course of treatment,” he said.

Opdivo® (nivolumab), will be expanded for adjuvant treatment of patients with oesophageal or gastro-oesophageal junction cancer who have received platinum-based chemoradio`therapy and surgery. 

An average of 390 patients per year could benefit from this listing. Without the subsidy, these patients might pay more than $85,000 per course of treatment. 

Since July 1 2022, there has been additional funding approved for 74 new and amended listings on the PBS.

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