Price of life-changing cancer and Parkinson’s drugs slashed in PBS blitz

A number of life-changing medications will be more affordable for Aussies from next month. Source: Pixabay

They’re drugs that can make a huge difference to people living with cancer, Parkinson’s disease and motor neurone disease and the government has announced a number of life-changing medications will be more affordable for Aussies when they’re listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) from April 1.

Patients will save up to $300,000 a year on the medication, with the government on Tuesday announcing it was investing $19 million to broaden the PBS listing of Adcetris. Also known as brentuximab vedotin, the medication will now include treatment of cutaneous T-cell lymphomas (CTCL) – a rare form of cancer impacting around 200 Australians each year caused by cancerous growth of a type of white blood cell called a T-cell.

The cancer is more common in men and affects people aged between 40 and 60. It’s sometimes confused with eczema because patients experience itchy, rash-like symptoms all over their body. The medicine is a combination of immunotherapy and chemotherapy that targets and kills certain cancer cells, with the potential to protect and save lives.

Instead of paying $300,000 a year, patients will pay just $40.30 per script, or $6.50 with a concession card under the PBS from April 1.

When it comes to treating Parkinson’s, Xadago (also known as safinamide) will be available for the first time on the PBS. Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological condition which can lead to a range of symptoms including slow movement and muscle stiffness and tremors. Around 80,000 currently live with the disease and 30 people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s each day.

The medication works by increasing the level of dopamine in the brain to decrease symptoms, with 11,000 people set to benefit from the listing. Patients had to pay more than $1,400 before the drug was added to the PBS, but it will now cost $40.30 per script, or $6.50 for those with a concession card.

Patients living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a form of motor neurone disease which can cause muscle degeneration leading to muscle weakness, will also be better off when Teglutik (riluzole) is listed on the PBS next month. The medication helps prevent nerve cells being damaged by stopping the release of a chemical messenger in the brain. patients would normally pay more than $2,900 per year for treatment, but the cost has also been slashed to $40.30 and $6.50 for concessions. Around 1,300 people will benefit from this listing.

“Every medicine was recommended to be added to the PBS by the independent expert Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee,” Minister for Health Greg Hunt said in a statement. “By law the Federal Government cannot list a new medicine without a positive recommendation from the PBAC.”

On average, 30 new listings are added to the PBS each month. In the past, the cost of medications used to treat kidney disease, lung cancer and seizures were reduced, while medication for the eyes, high blood pressure and epilepsy, arthritis, diabetes and asthma were slashed last year.

Do you think the government is doing enough to keep the cost of life-changing medication down?

Important information: The information provided on this website is of a general nature and information purposes only. It does not take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. It is not personalised health advice and must not be relied upon as such. Before making any decisions about your health or changes to medication, diet and exercise routines you should determine whether the information is appropriate in terms of your particular circumstances and seek advice from a medical professional.

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