ORANGE residents suffering with advanced lung cancer and a genetic high-cholesterol condition have been given a boost after the Federal government announced it will subsidise two advance treatment drugs.
The government has decided to include two drugs - Keytruda for lung cancer patients and Repatha for high-cholesterol patients - on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) that provides subsidised medicines to all Australians.
Rob Zielinski, a medical oncologist at the Central West Cancer Care Centre, said Keytruda is fast becoming a broad spectrum anti-cancer drug for multiple cancers.
“The government funding Keytruda for patients of lung cancers in the first-line setting is a tremendous announcement and was long overdue,” Mr Zielinski said.
“The evidence suggests this treatment works very well and extends the life of people with lung cancer. It also means that people can delay the need for chemotherapy.”
The evidence suggests this treatment works very well and extends the life of people with lung cancer. It also means that people can delay the need for chemotherapy.Medical oncologist Rob Zielinski
The move is likely to benefit residents in the Western NSW Local Health District, which lost 682 people to lung cancer between 2010 and 2014.
The most number of deaths were reported from Orange (95), Dubbo (89) and Bathurst (93) in the region.
Mr Zielinski said the treatment will only be provided to patients with advanced lung cancer, meaning the cancer has spread to other parts in their bodies.
“Those people who had not yet had any treatment for their lung cancers could also qualify for Keytruda after a test of their tumour,” he said.
The Federal government said patients with advanced lung cancer can save up to thousands in treatment every year.
“Patients will now pay a maximum of $39.50 per script or just $6.40 per script for concessional patients, including pensioners. Without PBS subsidy, it would cost over $11,300 per script or $188,000 a year,” the government said on Sunday.
“This listing means that for the first time, eligible patients with advanced lung cancer can avoid chemotherapy and be treated with this novel immunotherapy treatment Keytruda. It will benefit around 850 patients a year.”
Keytruda is an immunotherapy medicine working with a patient’s own immune system to recognise cancer cells and destroy them.
Mr Zielinski said one-third of the total lung cancer patients could qualify for the Keytruda treatment.
Marianne Weber, a senior research fellow at Cancer Council NSW, said the main barrier to accessing promising new cancer medicines is the price-setting policies of the drug companies.
“The huge costs mean governments have to carefully consider subsidies in relation to other costs in a growing health budget,” Ms Weber said.
“Cancer and its treatment can affect many aspects of a person’s life, including their finances. There are many different types of costs that could add up during treatment, so anything that will help to reduce the cost of cancer care will be a great advantage to cancer patients and their families.”
The Federal government has also listed another drug, Repatha, for the treatment of familial hypercholesterolaemia, which is a genetic high-cholesterol condition, on the PBS.
These changes will take place from Thursday.
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