A recent decision by health administrators in Australia is making two of the newest – and most expensive – mesothelioma drugs accessible and affordable for all. The country’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), the equivalent of the United States’ Food and Drug Administration, approved Opdivo and Yervoy for the treatment of the rare and fatal asbestos-related disease. Just 50 days later the drugs were added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), allowing a full course of the $130,000 treatment to be purchased for just $41.
“Impossibly Expensive” Mesothelioma Treatment Now Available
Opdivo and Yervoy have been approved for treatment of malignant mesothelioma in the United States, the European Union, and Australia. The drug combination has provided impressive survival times and progression free survival times, but the costs per dose have been called “impossibly expensive,” leaving many patients with the aggressive form of cancer uncertain about their ability to access its benefits. One former welder diagnosed with the disease said that the addition of the medication to the nation’s subsidized medications list has been a game changer.
Roughly 700-to-800 Australians are diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma each year, and retired welder Greg Swain is one of them. Diagnosed with the disease last November, he was initially told he had just one year to live. The availability of Opdivo and Yervoy has offered new hope, especially now that it has been added to the PBS scheme. “It’s lowering the price to affordability,” he said. “It’s a bit of a struggle, I’ve lost my energy … [but] the despair is gone, the thoughts of suicide are gone. This is now doing me better. In my case things improved with the second treatment, which was the immunotherapy.”
Australian Physician Praises Quick Addition of Immunotherapy Drugs for Mesothelioma Treatment
Though Opdivo and Yervoy had already been part of the PBS, adding malignant mesothelioma to the approved uses will be a game changer for the many Australians diagnosed with the asbestos-related disease. According to Dr. Geoffrey Peters, an oncologist at Canberra Hospital, “Previously patients with mesothelioma were accessing immunotherapy via self-funding or compensation payouts from legal settlement due to asbestos exposure, and this was costing families many thousands of dollars.” He said that the addition, which Health Minister Greg Hunt called one of the fastest ever in the agency’s history, will provide welcome financial relief and improved quality of life.
Malignant mesothelioma is a challenge for all who are diagnosed with it. If you or someone you love needs information or access to resources, the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net can help. Contact us today at 1-800-692-8608.