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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

MSD’s PBS win triples number of lung cancer patients eligible for immuno-oncology therapy

Health Industry Hub | November 20, 2019 |

Three times more Australians fighting the nation’s leading cause of cancer death may now be eligible to receive the immuno-oncology therapy KEYTRUDA, thanks to a national subsidy announced today.

MSD is joining doctors and lung cancer advocates in welcoming the Federal Health Minister’s announcement that from 1 December, KEYTRUDA will be included on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) for eligible patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer in combination with chemotherapy regardless of whether they have a biomarker marker called PD-L1.

In addition, for the first time, certain patients who have a PD-L1 score of 1 per cent or above will be able to access KEYTRUDA on its own.

Up to 4,000 Australians with lung cancer may be eligible for KEYTRUDA as a result of the new PBS listing. Until now, access to KEYTRUDA on the PBS for advanced lung cancer had been limited to around 1,200 patients with cancer with a high (>50%) expression of PD-L1.

Professor Michael Boyer from Chris O’Brien Lifehouse in Sydney, who was involved in recent clinical trials with KEYTRUDA, said “While we still have a long way to go to beat lung cancer, with the PBS listed options now available, patients and clinicians have more treatment options and are far better equipped to treat this cancer.

“We have made tremendous progress in only four years since this type of immuno-oncology therapy was first made available,” he said. The reimbursement of the KEYTRUDA-chemotherapy combination is based on results from the KEYNOTE 189 study which involved 616 patients with non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer, and KEYNOTE 407 which involved 559 patients with squamous non-small cell lung cancer, including some from Australia.

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Lung Foundation Australia CEO Mark Brooke described the expanded PBS listing of KEYTRUDA as “great news” for Australians with advanced non-small cell lung cancer.

From 1 December, eligible patients will pay just $40.30 (general patients) or $6.50 (concession card holders) for each three-weekly dose of KEYTRUDA.

Mr Michael Azrak, Managing Director of MSD in Australia, commended the Federal Government for more than tripling the number of patients with non-small cell lung cancer who will have access to KEYTRUDA on the PBS.

“We thank the Federal Health Minister for his commitment to making this immuno-oncology medicine available for Australians. This is an area of such genuine medical need, and MSD stands committed to ongoing collaboration with the Federal Government,” he said.

“This is the fifth subsidy granted to KEYTRUDA since it was registered as an anti-PD1 therapy in Australia nearly five years ago.”

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