A drug used to treat a rare form of cancer now widely available through the national pharmaceutical benefits scheme will act as a lifesaver.
Brentuximab vedotin, sold as Adcetris, was one of several medicines added to the PBS by the federal government on Saturday.
It is used to treat a rare subtype of Hodgkin lymphoma often affecting young people.
Prior to listing, it could cost patients tens of thousands of dollars for treatment at about $16,000 a cycle, Lymphoma Australia CEO Sharon Winton said.
“The problem in the past for this subtype of Hodgkin lymphoma, is there hasn’t been very much available,” she said.
“Generally young patients don’t have any treatment options left to give them a chance for a cure.
“For this drug to now be available without them considering selling their houses or taking out superannuation … it will save financial stress.”
Ms Winton said the drug could be used by some 100 cancer sufferers per year and either extend their life, act as a cure or allow them time to access other treatments.
“It now means they can actually have a chance of surviving,” Ms Winton said.
The drug was considered for inclusion on the PBS in 2014 but wasn’t made widely available for first-line treatment due to costs.
Ms Winton said the decision to put Adcetris on the PBS opened the door for other rare cancer treatments to be approved by the government.
“If the medicine is there and the data is there, and the benefit to the patient is there, then it is favourably looked at ,” she said.
“It can happen.”
Drugs added to the PBS include arthritis medicine etanercept and ferrous fumarate used to treat iron deficiency.
More than 1100 PBS-listed medicines will also drop in price from April 1.
Some 467,000 Australians using rosuvastatin to treat high cholesterol will save 22 per cent a script, the government says.