AUSTRALIAN women with advanced breast cancer are being warned they could die earlier than necessary because an expensive drug was rejected for listing on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
Doctors and patients are dismayed by the Federal Government's decision not to subsidise Tykerb because of "unacceptable cost-effectiveness"
The only hope of it being listed on the(PBS) now rests on the Federal Labour Govt being elected around Oct 07, this other PBS( Pork barrelling scheme)by the Fed Labour party, promising funding for 'Tykerb' would be a vote collector for a Kevin Rudd Labour Government.
Tykerb has been shown to extend life expectancy in women with aggressive HER2-positive breast cancer who have run out of treatment options, including the drug Herceptin.
But at $3800 a month, on top of other medical costs, many women will be unable to afford it.
University of Sydney oncologist Associate Professor Fran Boyle said she felt frustrated by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee's ruling not to approve Tykerb.
"I'm disappointed because it offers a significant step forward for people with HER2-positive breast cancer,'' Professor Boyle said.
"The difficulty is that breast cancer has had a significant impact on most of these women's earning capacity, so they don't necessarily have the cash to pay out of their own pockets.
"It's not going to be a happy Christmas.''
The decision came as NSW scientists, in a damning report published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, estimated that $21 million had been wasted in inefficient dispensing of Herceptin over the past five years.
Herceptin was not approved for PBS listing - as it would not have been deemed cost-effective, either - but the Federal Government took the unprecedented step of setting up a separate taxpayer-funded program to cover the cost.
"Herceptin really should have been approved under the standard (PBS) scheme, even back then,'' Professor Boyle said.
The number of women who would qualify for Tykerb as a last-chance treatment was a relatively small proportion of breast-cancer sufferers, so the cost to the Government would not be prohibitive, she said.
Sydneysider Sally Giles, 43, who has advanced HER2-positive breast cancer and is taking Tykerb as part of a trial, said it would be "really sad'' if other women were denied the drug - and the chance to live longer - because of financial constraints.
"It's very scary when you get to the stage where you think, 'What is the next step?' because all the other medicines don't work,'' Ms Giles said.
"Tykerb would cost more than $40,000 a year, and how can you do that if you're not working and you have all the other medical costs?''
So will the ball be given to Kevin Rudd: Prime Minister designate?. Come on you Kev suppporters. You must twist his arm and give these women a bit of dignity during their final days. Get the message to your local Lab MP.
Manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) will continue a free Tykerb treatment program for eligible women until November 30.
All women enrolled in the trial will continue to receive free treatment after the deadline, but new patients will be forced to pay the full cost.
Clinical trials of Tykerb, which goes under the chemical name lapatinib ditosylate, found it almost doubled the survival time for sufferers of advanced HER2-positive breast cancer victims.
GSK is expected to re-apply for PBS listing for the drug.
Thursday, 6 September 2007
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