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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Blood cancer patients denied access to ‘gold-standard of care’

Health Industry Hub | May 17, 2023 |

Pharma News: Australians diagnosed with an incurable blood cancer have been denied affordable access to a life-saving therapy. The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) has rejected the inclusion of Janssen’s Darzalex (daratumumab) in combination with lenalidomide and dexamethasone on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). This decision impacts approximately 1,500 Australians each year who are diagnosed with myeloma and are ineligible for a stem cell transplant.

The rejection of this therapy has sparked outrage among patients, healthcare professionals, and advocacy groups. Mark Henderson, the CEO of Myeloma Australia, expressed deep sadness for the Australians who could have benefited from this treatment regimen. He emphasised that Australians deserve access to the best clinical practices and urged the Federal Government to ensure that the country does not lag behind the rest of the world in adopting breakthrough therapies.

Myeloma Australia is leading the charge in advocating for improved access to innovative treatments for Australians with myeloma. Mr Henderson has written a letter to the Federal Health Minister, highlighting the importance of making new therapies available in line with international best practices. The goal is to ensure that Australia keeps pace with global advancements in cancer care.

Professor Hang Quach, Deputy Chair of Myeloma Australia’s Medical and Scientific Advisory Group, expressed disappointment over the committee’s decision. As a Melbourne-based haematologist and an investigator in the clinical trial of this regimen, Professor Quach had previously urged Australia to adopt the gold standard of care. She stressed that individuals with myeloma who are unsuitable for a transplant have a particularly poor prognosis, with over half not surviving to receive a second line of therapy.

“It is vital that treatments shown to have superior efficacy are available to use first line. For people with transplant ineligible myeloma, this regimen provides patients with up to three-and-a-half extra years of survival when used as a first line rather than second-line of defence,” Professor Quach said.

The Darzalex regimen, which has been rejected by the PBAC, is funded as a first-line therapy in more than 30 countries worldwide, including Canada, France, Greece, Bulgaria, and Colombia. This denial not only jeopardizes the lives of Australians but also highlights a disparity in global access to breakthrough therapies.

At present, Darzalex is only accessible on the PBS for Australians whose myeloma has relapsed following previous therapy. However, it remains unavailable for newly diagnosed patients.

Myeloma Australia is urgently calling on Janssen to resubmit to the PBAC, and for the committee to reconsider its decision at the earliest opportunity.

With an estimated 2,625 Australians expected to be diagnosed with multiple myeloma this year, and a staggering 1,100 lives projected to be lost to this disease, time is of the essence. Advocacy groups and patients are fervently appealing for action to be taken. As the world progresses in the fight against cancer, Australians should not be left behind in their pursuit of timely access to novel therapies.

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