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MEDIA RELEASE Minister for Health and Ageing

Tony Abbott MHR

22 August 2006 ABB120/06


The Commonwealth Government will list Herceptin® (trastuzumab) on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) from 1 October 2006 for the treatment of patients with HER2 positive early stage breast cancer following surgery.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women and affects 14,000 people per year. Of those, approximately 2,000 people have HER2 positive breast cancer. In Australia, more than 2,500 women died from the disease in 2001. Risk factors include age, alcohol consumption, certain chemicals, obesity and certain factors in a woman’s fertility history.

Herceptin® targets a particular type of breast cancer which produces an increased amount of a protein molecule called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2). The HER2 protein is associated with more aggressive disease and a poorer prognosis.

Treatment for early stage breast cancer normally consists of initial surgery, with or without radiotherapy, followed by chemotherapy drugs in combination. The addition of Herceptin® to existing treatment regimens will improve current treatment with a significant improvement in freedom from cancer recurrence.

It is estimated that approximately 2,000 people will commence Herceptin® in the first full financial year of listing for the treatment of early breast cancer. The listing of Herceptin® will add approximately $470 million to PBS and Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme expenditure between 2006-07 and 2009-10.

A fact sheet with more information is available at

Media contact: Claire Kimball, 0413 486 926