The Herald Sun launched a campaign on 4th May to get 36 cancer drugs listed that currently sit outside the PBS.
Coordinating with the Cancer Drugs Alliance, led by Professor John Zalcberg, the paper is advocating for the Alliance’s aim of subsidising a range of drugs including those that have already been rejected by the PBAC.
Prof Zalcberg compared the Australian system to other countries which subsidise drugs in as little as 6 months, compared to Australia’s average of 2.5 years and in some cases, 6 years, which has obvious negative impact on patients requiring these drugs.
“It is not just the drugs which people pay for, it is the people who can’t afford to pay for them,” Prof Zalcberg told the Herald Sun.
“You have to tell people these drugs are there, but on the other hand, you don’t want to make the suffering any worse.”
The head of the UK’s Cancer Drugs Fund, which helps English cancer patients gain access to drugs not routinely available on the NHS, Prof Peter Clark, recently meet with members of the Cancer Drugs Alliance and representatives from the Department of Health.
He has recommended Australia adopt a similar fund. “The elephant in the room is always the drug pricing and I think we need systems like this to put pressure back on the pharmaceutical companies,” Dr Clark told the Herald Sun.
Prof Clark argues such a move would enable patients to gain quick access to the required drugs and it is thought help drive down the prices pharmaceutical companies are charging from some high cost drugs: “Once you see real-life outcomes, it will end up with much more realistic pricing by pharmaceutical companies, and therefore there is a decent chance things will get approved by the NHS and PBAC the first time.”
A spokesman for Health Minister Peter Dutton responded, “The Government is determined to give early access at a price affordable to taxpayers wherever possible and is looking at international examples that might be applicable in Australia”.
The 36 drugs are:
Abiraterone acetate for prostate cancer
Alco-trastuzumab for breast cancer
Alemtuzumab for leukaemia
Alitretinoin for AIDs related sarcoma
Axitinib for kidney cancer
Bexarotene for cancer of the immune system
Bevacizumab for colon, brain, lung and kidney cancers
Bortezomib for blood cancer
Bosutinib for leukaemia
Cabazantinib for thyroid cancer
Carfilzomib for bone marrow cancer
Crizotinib for lung cancer
Denileukin diftitox for cancer of the immune system
Erlotinib for pancreatic cancer
Ibritumomab for blood cancer
Lenalldomide for bone marrow cancer
Obinutuzumab for leukaemia
Ofatumumab for leukaemia
Paxlitaxel for pancreatic cancer
Pazapanib for soft tissue sarcoma
Pertuzumab for breast cancer
Ponatinib for leukaemia
Pralatrexate for leukaemia
Regorafenib for colon and stomach cancer
Romidepsin for cancer of the immune system
Ruxolitinib for bone marrow cancer
Sorafenib for kidney and thyroid cancer
Temsirolimus for kidney cancer
Trametinib for melanoma
Trastuzumab for gastric cancer
Tretinoin for leukeima
Vandetanib for thryoid cancer
Vemurafenib for melanoma
Vismodegib for skin cancer
Vorinostat for cancer of the immune system
Ziv-aflibercept for colon cancer
Herald Sun Campaign
You can read the Herald Sun’s leader article here.
The Herald Sun also published an opinion piece by Professor Grant A. McArthur, co-head of the Cancer Therapeutics Program at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, here alongside an editorial ‘Don’t let them die waiting‘.
Oncologynews.com.au will keep you posted on developments and encourages reader comments on the campaign below.
ONA Editor – Rachael Babin.