The Turnbull Government has announced it will be reducing the cost of life-saving cancer medicine.
From next month, classical Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients will only pay a maximum of $39.50 for a script. The cost will be even lower for pensioners and concessional patients, who will pay just $6.40 per script.
It is thought that cancer patients who rely on the drug to track down and destroy cancer cells will be saving more than $200,000 for their treatment. Minister for Health Greg Hunt released a statement on Monday morning and said more than 120 Australians who are diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma each year will be able to access the drug Keytryda at a drastically reduced cost.
In later stages, Hodgkin’s lymphoma can spread through the lymphatic system and impact the blood and other parts of the body. It impacts the immune system and makes it hard for patients to fight off infection. Australian sweetheart Delta Goodrem was diagnosed with the disease in 2003 when she was just 18 years old.
The new availability of the drug means patients now have a new option of treatment when they can’t undergo, or have no response, to normal chemotherapy treatments. The drug is also listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
The PBS originally began in 1948, offering free medication for pensioners and 139 additional drugs that save lives and prevent diseases. Under the PBS, the government subsidises the cost of medicine for most medical conditions. Most of the drugs on the list are dispensed by pharmacists and used by patients at home.
The government said it was committed to making more life-changing immunotherapy medicines available to Australian patients and has listed several others drugs on the PBS.
The first, Opdivo, can be used to treat advanced and metastatic stages of non-small cell lung cancer and a type of renal cell cancer. The second, Yervoy, will benefit patients living with unresectable Stage II or Stage IV malignant melanoma. Other medicines will also be made available to treat a range of other conditions including non-small cell lung cancer, epilepsy, as well as ulcerative colitis.
For lung cancer patients, the introduction of Giotrif will benefit 220 people, who would have usually paid $33,550 for their medication. More than 1,800 epilepsy patients will save $1,000 with the Briviact drug, while Colazide, an intestinal anti-inflammatory agent, will benefit more than 2,000 patients when larger maximum quantities on prescriptions become available.
Minister Hunt added that the Coalition has subsidised more than $8.2 billion worth of new medicines since coming into Government.
“Our commitment to the PBS is rock solid,” he said. “Together with Medicare, it is a foundation of our world-class health care system.”
It’s not the first time the cost of important drugs have been slashed. In 2016, more than 400 medicines dropped in price, saving the average person $20 per script. There are now calls for even more drugs to be reduced in cost for the health benefit of man more Australians.