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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Skin cancer drug added to PBS

Australians with a potentially life-threatening type of non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) will for the first time, have access to subsidised immunotherapy when it becomes available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) from today.

LIBTAYO® (cemiplimab) will be PBS-funded for adults with metastatic or locally advanced cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (advanced CSCC) when curative surgery and curative radiation is not suitable.

CSCC is a type of NMSC that starts in the top layer of the skin where squamous cells are located. When advanced, it can grow quickly over several weeks or months, and if left untreated, it can spread and become difficult to treat.

Approximately 1,700 Australians were estimated to have died from NMSC in 2020 – this translates to up to four people per day.

Additionally, NMSC can heavily impact a person’s daily life and cause significant anxiety and relationship difficulties.

Known as an ‘immune checkpoint inhibitor’, LIBTAYO works by helping the immune system fight cancer. Until now, no subsidised treatment options have been available for Australians with advanced CSCC when curative surgery and radiation are not suitable. It is anticipated that approximately 1,000 Australians may be eligible for treatment each year.

“Advanced CSCC can cause a great deal of distress due to severe pain, marked alteration of facial appearance, and impact on critical facial structures and function e.g., eyes, ears and nose,” said Professor Danny Rischin, Medical Oncologist, Department of Medical Oncology, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

“LIBTAYO is the first reimbursed treatment option available specifically for patients for whom curative surgery and radiation is not an option or not suitable. LIBTAYO provides an alternative to surgery that could cause severe disfigurement or dysfunction, or impact on critical functions e.g., removal of an eye.”

Liz Siminsky, General Manager Specialty Care, Sanofi Australia & New Zealand said the new PBS listing will be life changing for many Australians.

“We are pleased the Government has recognised the unmet need that LIBTAYO may fill in our community and are proud to continue our support for Australians impacted by this distressing and potentially life-threatening advanced non-melanoma skin cancer,” she said.

Australian patients were an important part of LIBTAYO clinical trials. In one key global study, nearly 40% of patients enrolled were Australian with Australian cancer specialists playing a leading role.

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