Pancreatic cancer patients to pay $15,000 or miss out

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pancreas oncology news australiaSource: Herald Sun – Grant Mcarthur.

A DRUG company will stop supplying cut-price treatment for pancreatic cancer after the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee rejected a deal to list the medication for a subsidy, forcing desperate patients to shell out more than $15,000 each or miss out.

Abraxane has been found to increase pancreatic cancer patients’ survival rate by almost 30 per cent when used with existing therapy, prompting the Therapeutic Goods Administration to fast-track its approval.

But, while breast cancer patients can access the drug for $36.10, an application to subsidise Abraxane for metastatic pancreatic cancer was rejected on Tuesday when the government body and distributor Specialised Therapeutics Australia could not agree on price.

Up to 1800 patients a year could be denied the medication if they cannot pay $15,000.

While waiting for a Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme listing the company supplied the medication for $5180, but on Wednesday wrote to doctors warning it could not continue to fund the compassionate scheme if the issue was not resolved soon.

“We understand only too well that this will have a tremendous impact on the ability of many patients and their families to afford the only TGA-approved regimen for metastatic pancreas cancer that has shown greater than two-year survival benefits,” the letter states.

“I only hope you understand the unfortunate situation we find ourselves in. A company our size cannot be expected to indefinitely subsidise the entire pancreatic population as we have done since 2009.”

In its letter STA said the PBAC had asked it provide the drug for 60 per cent less than the Government paid for its use on breast cancer patients and below the cost of getting it to Australia.

STA says it has spent more than $10 million providing the drug to more than 1000 patients, but yesterday would not comment on the PBAC issue.

Prof John Zalcberg, who treats pancreatic cancer patients at Peter McCallum Cancer Centre, said Abraxane, the first new drug to combat the disease in 20 years, was adding months and years to patients’ lives.

“It is really disappointing, and very hard to understand, why it would be rejected at this point,” Prof Zalcberg said. “It means we can only have wealthier people affording it, as opposed to the average person in the street. The PBS is supposed to make drugs equitable for all.” …Read the full story.

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