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Erbitux and other medicines listed on the PBS

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Minister for Health and Ageing


21 June 2011


More than 400,000 Australians will benefit from new subsidised medicines from 1 September 2011, including patients suffering multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis and various forms of cancer.

Minister for Health and Ageing Nicola Roxon explained the $200 million announcement includes the listing of Cetuximab (Erbitux®) to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). Erbitux, which can cost up to $30,000 a year without a subsidy, will assist around 2700 patients who are suffering with late-stage bowel cancer.

“The listing of Erbitux was complex given that it is the first time any Government has listed a medicine on the PBS while also attempting to list a co-dependent genetic test on Medicare,” Minister Roxon said.

“While the assessment of Medicare funding for the genetic test is still ongoing, the drug manufacturer has offered to pay for the genetic test in the meantime. This offer has allowed the Government to bring forward its consideration of Erbitux®.

“Along with Erbitux, a number of other new drugs that will also be listed, including new drugs to help patients suffering from Hodgkin disease, enlarged prostate, cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis and psychosis.

“In particular, I am pleased to announce the listing of the treatment fingolimod (Gilenya®) which will assist patients who are suffering with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. It is the first oral treatment for MS and will reduce clinical relapses and slow progression of the disease.

“Today’s announcement reaffirms the Government’s commitment to list drugs on the PBS that treat serious conditions where alternative treatments are not already available.

“To continue funding critical PBS listings, we need to achieve sensible savings to the health budget, such as those offered by our proposed changes to the Private Health Insurance rebate and Chronic Disease Dental Scheme. Future PBS listings will become increasingly difficult without corresponding savings.

“Changes to the PHI rebate will make the rebate fairer for all Australians, while also releasing over $100 billion over the next forty years to invest within the health portfolio, including on new PBS listings.

“One proposal for listing on the National Immunisation Program, Priorix-Tetra®, was deferred by Cabinet because the diseases the vaccine covered are already covered by other vaccines on the PBS.

“Cabinet will continue to consider all new PBS drug listings and how these listings compare with other health spending priorities such as training new doctors and nurses, opening new hospital beds and investing in new preventative health programs.”

Other additions or extensions to the PBS and National Immunisation Program, subject to final listing arrangements being met, include:

• Fluconazole (Diflucan®) - for certain fungal infections in immunocompromised children and the elderly.

• Imatinib (Glivec®) - for patients with a high risk of recurrence of tumour following the surgical removal of a gastrointestinal tumour.

• Pegfilgrastim (Neulasta®) - to stimulate the production of white cells in immunocompromised patients with Hodgkin disease.

• Tobramycin (Tobi®) - for treatment of lung infection caused by a specific bacterium in patients with cystic fibrosis.

• Dalteparin Sodium (Fragmin®) - for the treatment of blood clots.

• Eltrombopag (Revolade®) - to treat adult patients with a potentially life threatening bone marrow disorder.

• Ferrous fumarate (Ferro Tab®) - for the treatment of anaemia.

• Flupenthixol (Fluanxol®) and zuclopenthixol (Clopixol®) - to treat patients with psychosis.

• Risperidone (Risperdal Consta®) - a long-acting injection for patients with bipolar disorder.

• Dutasteride with tamsulosin hydrochloride (Duodart®) - a treatment for enlarged prostate.

The Government has also agreed to increase the price of three medicines currently listed on the PBS - Amiloride Hydrochloride Tablet, 5mg (Kaluril®), Chlorthalidone (Hygroton 25®) and Thiamine Hydrochloride (Betamin®). In addition, the Government has agreed to list the new 60mg vial size of Herceptin through the Medicare-administered late-stage Herceptin program.

The Government will also list Fluarix®, a vaccine to protect against seasonal influenza, on the National Immunisation Program later this year.

Since 2007, we have listed over 500 new medicines and brands at a cost of more than $4 billion.

For all media inquiries, please contact the Minister's Office on 0409 945 476