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Leukaemia drug IMBRUVICA added to Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

10 October 2017 12:31 AM
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Leukaemia drug IMBRUVICA added to Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

When a drug costing $187,000 a year is the treatment for your illness, early death is the only viable alternative.

That’s the opinion of Kariong retiree John Dixon, 72, who learned this week that a special drug to treat his Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL) had been added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

“Nobody could afford that — I thought about it — but I wouldn’t have wanted sell the house and leave my wife with nothing,” he said.

“Fortunately I’ve been lucky enough to be on a special scheme that subsidises the cost — and with in a couple of weeks of starting to take it I started getting better,” he said.

From 1 December 2017, the cost of IMBRUVICA ® will be subsidised for the several thousand Australians living with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL) or Small Lymphocytic Lymphoma (SLL) in whom the disease has progressed despite treatment with standard therapies.

CLL is the most common form of leukaemia, 1 with almost 1,500 Australians expected to be diagnosed this year alone.

Gosford-based haematologist Dr Cecily Forsyth said CLL was a disease of older caucasian people.

“The average age of diagnosis is in the 70s and it’s quite common on the Central Coast with our older and very caucasian population,” Dr Forsyth said.

Dr Forsyth said that unless patients were lucky enough to get onto a compassionate program for supply of the drug, it was far too costly.

“It’s monstrously expensive — unles your surname is Packer — and nobody can afford that,” she said.

“It’s an indefinite treatment — three tablets once a day — for as long as it works.

“Which is why there is enormous joy for patients and haematologists that finally this drug is going to be on the PBS and its great that it’s happening at last.”

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