Costs cut for cancer drugs

May 10, 2018

Anne-Marie is urging local people to complete a consumer comment form to help get Palbociclib added to the PBS.

Anne-Marie Greenway from Goorambat is overjoyed that two life-saving drugs, which could save the lives of thousands of women, are scheduled to be subsidised.

Last year The Ensign spoke with Anne-Marie after she had been told to pay more than $60000 per year for medication to treat metastatic breast cancer, which she could not afford.

The drugs in question are Palbociclib and Ribociclib, which are now known by their brand names Ibrance and Kisqali.

At the time Anne-Marie was fighting to have one or both of those drugs added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

And it seems that nearly 10 months later the government has decided that these life-saving drugs should be subsidised.

Anne Marie said she was delighted with the news, but also made the point that Australia was a year behind the rest of the world in terms of subsidising this type of medication.

‘‘These are free on the National Health Service in the UK, they are subsidised in other parts of Europe and in the US,’’ Anne-Marie said.

‘‘It’s really important to make these drugs available, as at $60000 per year they are out of the reach of most people.

‘‘In terms of life-expectancy, without access to Palbociclib or Ribociclib, a person only has a 22 per cent chance of surviving for five years.’’

The subsidies available are yet to be confirmed with the relevant pharmaceutical companies, but are expected to be green-lit by the federal cabinet in the near future.

Anne-Marie has actually been receiving Ribociclib for almost seven months after being offered the chance to take part in a compassionate access program.

However, access to a program like this is limited and the majority of women who rely on this type of medication to stay alive would not have the same opportunity.

‘‘When I spoke to The Ensign in August I was trying to get access to Palbociclib, but there were no compassionate trials available,’’ she said.

‘‘But I discovered that there was an option for me to get onto a trial for Kisqali, which is what they call Ribociclib.

‘‘I do have to undergo a head-to-toe bone scan every few months. That looks for tiny holes, which is what is left when the cancer is killed.’’

‘‘Since being on the trial I have had no deterioration, which is really good news,’’ Anne-Marie said.

‘‘It’s the best I can hope for. It might not be getting any better, but it isn’t getting any worse.

‘‘The medication could hold the cancer at bay for the next 20 years.’’

Compared to a 22 per cent chance of surviving for five years, that is a huge difference, and great news for any women hoping to gain access to these drugs once they are made available on the PBS.

As well as her focus on fighting cancer, Anne-Marie is active in the Goorambat and Benalla communities and runs the local Benalla Breast Cancer Support Group.

Anne-Marie said she was aware there were at least 30 women in and around Benalla who had been diagnosed with breast cancer in the past five years.

‘‘I obviously don’t have the details of who they are, but we run the support group for anyone who might like to come,’’ she said.

‘‘We have up to 17 people who come regularly and the local coffee shops, like Rambling Rose, have been very supportive.

‘‘They will reserve a table for us, for example, and treat us very well. I’d just like to say a big thank you for all the help.’’

The Benalla Breast Cancer Support Group holds regular meetings and hopes to hold a morning tea in October for breast cancer awareness month.

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