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Government refuses funding for cancer drug

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Media Release Dr Bob Woods Shadow Minister for Health no: Θ1


A drug which can increase both the span and the quality of life for cancer patients has been rejected by a Federal Government funding Committee despite the fact that it was first discovered here in Australia and is used widely overseas Federal Shadow Minister for Health Dr Bob Woods said today,

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) has refused to make the drug "Neupogen" available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). The Committee has apparently also rejected the idea that Neupogen should be provided by special funding grants to the State public hospitals. This is the second time the Committee has rejected the application.

Unless the hospitals can afford to find the money from their already stretched financial resources cancer patients will have to flmd it themselves. The cost of Neupogen ranges from $1,600 -$2,600 for a ten day cycle, putting it out of the price range of all but a few patients.

"Neupogen", a synthetic version of the natural hormone "Colony Stimulating Factor" (CSF) is the only drug th at boosts the white blood cell count in cancer patients. Without these boosts patients csn die from infections that they become very susceptible to and unable to combat. The infections mean they are often unable to undergo chemotherapy and die from the cancer.

The husband of a young Sydney woman who finally succumbed to the disease after a long battle with breast cancer believes that if she had had access to Neopogen early enough ehe would be alive today.

Janty Nicoleon was first diagnosed with breast cancer in September 1990. By the October she had undergone a radical mastectomy of the right breast As in the case of many young victims, Janty's cancer was particularly aggressive and in July last year ehe was further diagnosed as having 12 tumours in her liver.

These were being treated but a life threatening bout of pneumonia and her inability to have chemotherapy resulted in the tumours reappearing.

Her husband Michael believes that if Janty had been receiving the Neupogen to keep her white blood cell count high ehe never would have contracted the pneumonia and could have continued chemotherapy to destroy the cancer.

Neupogen was approved for general marketing in Australia in April this year after a

For ftirUw Information contact Dr Wood» or Leie* O'Conner on 02 746 MOO. A4Ur hour· contact Dr Wood· 02 744 1872 or Leiea O'Connor 02 707 6233.


lengthy evaluation process. >

Despite this, and the fact that it ie used widely in 27 countries overseas, the funding committee has now raised concerns about its benefits.

Cancer patients are quite rightly sceptical that concerns about the money that would have to be spent by the Government have motivated the decision to refuse its funding.

It is ironic when you consider "the money that could be saved if patients didn't need hospitalisation and expensive drugs because of debilitating infections. r

At a recent meeting of oncologists, Dr John Green of the University of Liverpool and Profeasor George Demetri of the Dana- Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, both eminent cancer specialists, spoke favourably of Neupogen, indicating that its use was not experimental but eafe and effective. Neupogen is now a vital part of treatm ent for cancer patients.

It is ludicrous that the PBAC has reftised Neupogen for funding on the grounds that it has concerns about its benefits, after it has received approval from ADEC.

Not only la Neupogen cost effective but it also increases the chances of effective treatm ent by chemotherapy and reduces patients hospitalisation. The Government has a moral responsibility to act humanely and compassionately to ensure all Australians

eiyoy the benefits of our wonderful medical research."

80th October 1992


fo r l u t W eon tact Dr Woods or Leise O'Connor on 02 746 8200. After hours contact Dr Woods 02 744 1872 or Leisa O'Connor 02 797 0288.