New treatment option for incurable blood cancer now available on PBS

Jun 01, 2020
The three-drug regimen will be reimbursed on the PBS for the treatment of all newly diagnosed patients from today. Source: Getty.

There’s good news for Australians living with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood, with the government now adding a new treatment option — Revlimid (lenalidomide) in combination with bortezomib (Velcade) and dexamethasone (RVd) — to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

The three-drug regimen will be reimbursed on the PBS for the treatment of all newly diagnosed patients from June 1, 2020. Known as a triplet therapy, each drug in the RVd combination has a different mechanism of action to kill myeloma cells, and all work together to help fight the disease.

Around 18,000 Australians are currently living with multiple myeloma, the third most common type of blood cancer. This type of cancer develops from plasma cells, a type of white blood cells found in the bone marrow. Multiple myeloma can affect anyone, but it’s more common in men and those over the age of 70. While there’s no cure for this type of cancer, treatments can slow its spread and sometimes make symptoms go away.

The announcement comes after a recent article published in The Medical Journal of Australia highlighted the importance of maximising first-line therapy for myeloma. Author Professor Miles Prince said: “The typical journey of a patient with myeloma is one of response, remission and relapse, so early intervention with first-list treatment options remains the best opportunity to optimise long term patient outcomes.

“While myeloma remains incurable, the survival rate for the disease has significantly improved over the past two decades, with the median survival rate having more than doubled to seven years,” he said. “The listing of these treatments on PBS is critical to improving patient access, and the reimbursement of an additional first-line therapy option for multiple myeloma is welcomed news.”

Myeloma Australia CEO Steve Roach said today’s listing of RVd is good news for the Australian myeloma community. “This is the first time in Australia that the major treatment options for myeloma have been reimbursed as a triplet therapy. I’m really pleased that the government and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) have seen the importance of this and would like to congratulate them on reimbursing another treatment option for the Australian myeloma community.

“It’s really important for Australians living with myeloma that they have another treatment option, as improved access to therapy options is what can give families more time with their loved ones.”

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