Under Australia's Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), soon many of the rare diseases and their treatments are set to become cheaper.
Brentuximab vedotin for CTCL patients
Patients with cutaneous T-cell lymphomas (CTCL) may soon be able to get access to brentuximab vedotin (sold as adcetris) under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). An additional $19 million a year has been added to the scheme.
CTCL is diagnosed in around 150 to 200 persons annually and is the result of a cancer in the T cells of the skin. The initial symptoms are similar to eczema with itchy rash like lesions and may go undiagnosed. It commonly affects males between ages of 40 and 60 years.
In these patients a combined treatment with brentuximab vedotin and chemotherapy can kill the specific cells. The treatment can cost up to $300,000 a year and this news about availability of the therapy under the scheme is a welcome one says Associate Professor Joel Rhee, Chair of the RACGP Cancer and Palliative Care Specific Interests. He said, “GPs have an important role in the assessment and diagnosis of cancers, including rare types such as CTCL, which is often diagnosed through a skin biopsy. GPs should familiarise themselves with immunotherapy, especially their side effects and potential complications, as they become an integral part of cancer care.” Under the PBS the prices of brentuximab vedotin will come down to $40.30 per script, or $6.50 with a concession card.
Health Minister Greg Hunt in a statement said, “It has the potential to save and protect lives.”
Safinamide for Parkinson’s disease patients and Riluzole for motor neurone disease patients
Patients with Parkinson’s disease would soon get an easier access to safinamide (sold as xadago). This drug works by increasing the levels of dopamine in the brains of these patients. At present patients are paying over $1400 annually for treatment with the disease.
Riluzole (sold as teglutik) is helpful in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a form of motor neurone disease. This is a severely debilitating disease leading to degeneration of muscles. The drug presently costs around $2900 annually to patients.
Safinamide and riluzole, under the PBS would now be available for $40.30 per script, or $6.50 with a concession card.
The drugs under the scheme would be accessible from 1st April this year say the officials.