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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

CAR T therapy unit welcomed amidst funding disparities

Health Industry Hub | March 28, 2024 |

Pharma News: A state-of-the-art unit providing patients access to gene and cell therapies, including CAR T-cell therapy and stem cell transplants, was inaugurated by Victoria’s health minister, Mary-Anne Thomas.

Professor Jason Payne, Chief Executive of Peter Mac, expressed his excitement about the unit, emphasising its role as a specialised ‘home base’ for patients.

“It is exciting to stand here in this thoughtfully designed space, which has a real warmth to it,” said Professor Payne. “It is even more wonderful to see patients receiving the very latest in cancer treatments here, with the care, kindness, and expertise Peter Mac is famous for.”

The path to making these highly specialised therapies accessible to patients is not without challenges. These therapies are jointly funded by the Commonwealth Government and State & Territory Governments, currently on a 50/50 basis as per the National Health Reform Agreement (NHRA). There are differences across jurisdictions in funding of CAR T-cell therapy, preferred implementation approaches and support to patients. Limited funding allocation, coupled with the misalignment of jurisdictional budget cycles to the timing of the MSAC announcement, further complicates the situation.

While Gilead’s re-application for Tecartus (brexucabtagene autoleucel) has resulted in its recent recommendation by the MSAC for funding in adults facing relapsed or refractory B-precursor acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, the MSAC deferred Janssen’s CAR T therapy, Carvykti (cilta-cel), for multiple myeloma, citing the necessity for a ‘substantial price reduction’ despite its clinical superiority.

At last week’s Horizon Scanning Forum, Urs Voegeli, Managing Director of J&J Innovative Medicine, advocated for a value framework tailored to address societal and patient needs, particularly for one-off, life-changing health technologies such as CAR T therapies.

Opening the Peter Mac unit represents the final step in delivering three major cellular therapy initiatives made possible by an $80 million investment from the Federal Government plus a further $25 million from Peter Mac and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Foundation.

In addition, this co-investment funded the establishment of a Centre of Excellence in Cellular Immunotherapy laboratory and funds the ongoing clinical trial development program to advance the science of cell-based treatments. It also funded the construction of expanded clean-room and other cellular therapy manufacturing facilities – operated by Cell Therapies Pty Ltd – and which opened earlier this year.

Professor Simon Harrison, Head of the Centre of Excellence for Cellular Immunotherapy, highlighted the unit’s world-class team and emphasised the importance of ongoing research.

“With this clinical unit and the manufacturing facilities now complete, we can now focus on funding and facilitating the Centre of Excellence in Cellular Immunotherapy’s research pipeline, designed to help rapidly translate new cellular immunotherapy technologies into the clinic,” stated Professor Harrison.

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