Price of life-changing medications slashed in PBS price blitz

Patients living with kidney disease, lung cancer and seizures will save thousands when live-changing medication is added to the PBS in 2019. Source: Getty

While a number of life-changing and life-saving drugs and medications have been reduced dramatically throughout the year after being added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), the good news is not over yet.

The cost of medications used to treat kidney disease, lung cancer and seizures have all been slashed from thousands to under $40 in a new price blitz announced by the Liberal National Government.

For Australians living with autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease – a genetic, progressive and painful disease where cysts develop and grow on the kidneys – Jinarc (tolvaptan) has been added to the PBS. Patients currently pay around $23,000 a year for the medication, but will be able to purchase the drug for $40.30 a script from January 1, or $6.50 if they’re a concession.

Most people living with the disease require dialysis or a kidney transplant by the age of 60 and also experience other health complications including hypertension, chronic and acute pain, urinary tract infections and depression. The medication helps by slowing down the growth of the cysts on the kidneys.

Also being added to the PBS on January 1 is a medicine called Xalkori or Crizotinib. This medication – which helps lung cancer patients living with the c-ROS proto-oncogene 1 (ROS1) gene rearrangement – currently costs $140,000 a year. Under the PBS, patients will now pay just $40.30 a script, or $6.50 if they’re a concession patient.

The drug has the potential to save and prolong lives and may slow the growth of Stage IIIB (locally advanced) or Stage IV (metastatic) non-small cell lung cancer. 

As for patients who experience seizures associated with tuberous sclerosis complex, the medicine Afinator (everolimus) is also being added to the PBS from Tuesday. The medication currently costs $17,000 per patient each year, but will go down to $40.30 a script and $6.50 for concessions from next month.

Tuberous sclerosis complex causes benign tumours to grow in the brain and on other vital organs. The condition impacts the central nervous system and results in a combination of symptoms including seizures. 

The medication will not only reduce the frequency of seizures, but will also reduce the terrible side effects that come with the condition.

“The recent 2018–19 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) invests a further $1.4 billion in new medicines, saving sick Australians hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year,” Minister for Health Greg Hunt said in a statement. “Our strong economic management means we are providing Australian patients with access to life-saving and life-changing medicines quicker than ever before.  We are now making on average one new or amended PBS listing every single day.”

Last month, five new cancer listings were added to the PBS, following a $100 million investment from the government. Patients battling certain forms of leukaemia, advanced tumours of the intestine and pancreas, melanoma, bowel cancer and ovarian cancer can now save as much as $100,000 a year.

Read more: Price of life-saving cancer medication slashed from thousands to under $40

The latest announcement follows an array of other life-changing medication that have been made available through the PBS in 2018 year, including medication for the eyes, high blood pressure and epilepsy, as well as medication to treat arthritis, diabetes and asthma.

Do you think medication is still too expensive? Have any medicines you take been added to the PBS this year? What kind of impact did this have on your health?

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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