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PBS treatment expanded to leukaemia

A treatment already on the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme will be expanded to help treat leukaemia.

Listed Venclexta is being expanded for the treatment of acute myeloid leukaemia for use in combination with azacitidine, which Health Minister Greg Hunt believes will give sufferers more options and better outcomes.

“Around 340 Australian patients a year will benefit from this expanded listing, who without the PBS subsidy would pay more than $88,800 per course of treatment,” Mr Hunt said in a statement on Sunday.

“From December 1, they’ll pay $41.30 per script or $6.60 with a concession card.”

In 2021, almost 5000 Australians were diagnosed with leukaemia.

It’s estimated around 1100 people are diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia each year, which becomes more common with age and mostly occurs after 65.

AML affects the blood and bone marrow as leukaemia cells overwhelm other blood cells, preventing them carrying out normal functions like fighting infection, providing oxygen and preventing bleeding.

Without treatment, people develop severe infections or other serious complications.

Older patients have a very poor prognosis and are often ineligible for intensive chemotherapy due to age and other medical conditions.

Despite advances in available therapies and care, the five-year survival rate for patients diagnosed with AML remains about 29 per cent.

Professor Andrew Wei, a clinical haematologist at The Alfred Hospital and Monash University, says the shock of AML diagnosis and need to make quick treatment decisions is incredibly hard for patients and families.

“It can be even more emotionally challenging for those who have limited treatment options, when intensive chemotherapy is not appropriate,” he said.

“Today’s PBS listing brings a new option for Australians with acute myeloid leukaemia who face this reality.”

Chris Stemple, general manager at biopharmaceutical company AbbVie Australia, said Venclexta’s availability would give patients accelerated access to “a major therapeutic advance”.

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