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Tuesday, 13 May 2008
Page: 1634


Senator Allison asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Ageing, upon notice, on 12 February 2008:

(1)   Is the Government aware that, according to clinical trials conducted by the United States of America’s National Cancer Institute, Herceptin has been shown to reduce the risk of recurrence by approximately 30 per cent for people with HER-2 gene amplification in early stage breast cancer.

(2)   In the light of these findings, will the Government now consider allowing patients to access Herceptin on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme for longer than the current limit of 12 months; if not, why not.


Senator Ludwig (Minister for Human Services) —The Minister for Health and Ageing has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

(1)   Yes.

(2)   Items are included in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) on the advice of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC). At its July 2006 meeting, the PBAC recommended an authority required listing for Herceptin┬« (trastuzumab) for the treatment of patients with HER-2 positive early breast cancer commencing concurrently with adjuvant chemotherapy following surgery. The duration of treatment proposed to the PBAC in the July 2006 submission was 52 weeks. The PBAC considered that the optimal duration of therapy with Herceptin based on the evidence presented supported 52 weeks. Specifically, the results of five trials were presented, including those undertaken by the United States of America’s National Cancer Institute. In four of these trials, treatment was given for 52 weeks, and in the remaining trial it was given for 9 weeks. The PBAC has not been provided with any evidence to show that treatment beyond 52 weeks results in any greater benefit. The PBAC welcomes further submissions from the sponsor, if the sponsor believes there is evidence that a change to the duration of treatment with Herceptin will lead to a cost-effective improvement in benefit.