COVID-19 and blood cancer | Leukaemia Foundation

Blood cancer and COVID-19: FAQs

Updated 02/04/2020

What is coronavirus COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by a new virus. Symptoms include:

  • fever
  • coughing
  • sore throat
  • shortness of breath.

The virus can spread from person to person, but good hygiene and social distancing can prevent infection.

Are people with blood cancer more at risk?

Perhaps, but it’s not just coronavirus. People with blood cancer are generally more vulnerable to picking up a cold, flu or virus, and then suffering complications as a result of that infection, because they have weakened immune systems.  

It’s important people living with blood cancer follow all advice from their doctor at this time and do everything they can to avoid encountering any form of infection, including, but not limited to, the coronavirus. 

Getting your medicines

General supply

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has recently confirmed Australia currently has sufficient supplies of medicines and the Government is strongly discouraging the stockpiling or panic buying of medicines. However, to assist with managing those supplies there are now limits on dispensing and sales at pharmacies.

What is the pharmaceutical industry doing to help with medicine supplies?

It is working closely with Government to monitor supplies to minimise the potential for shortages. There are also:

  • increasing production and orders for Australia to meet demand
  • sourcing products from other countries and managing logistics and freight to bring medicines into the country
  • activating alternative manufacturing facilities

How can I get my medicines if I’m unable to leave the house?

The Government recently announced a COVID-19 health package, including the COVID-19 Home Medicines Service to enable vulnerable people and people in self-isolation to order their PBS and RPBS prescriptions remotely and have them home delivered at no cost.

Contact your local pharmacist and they will be able to advise you on this.

What can I do if my medicine is not available at my pharmacy?

If medicines are unavailable in your local pharmacy:

  • Seek support from your pharmacist to phone around other pharmacists in the area.
  • Notify the manufacturer who makes your medicine so they can also assist you. Their contact number will be on your medicine packet or the pharmacist can help you locate it.

Home delivery of IMBRUVICA®️ (ibrutinib)

We’ve been advised that everyone currently taking IMBRUVICA®️ (ibrutinib) is eligible for a home delivery service – free of charge – through the existing You&I Support Program.

IMBRUVICA®️ (ibrutinib) is a prescription medicine used to treat some Australians who have blood cancer or a related blood disorder.

To begin receiving IMBRUVICA®️ through the home delivery service, you’ll need to call 1800 861 502 and enrol. This line is open Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm AEST.

Your clinical trial

A clinical trial is a research study that helps to determine whether a new drug or device is safe and effective.

Participation gives you access to potentially life-saving and life-enhancing treatments.  Many Australians with blood cancer take part in clinical trials.

COVID-19 and/or the measures put in place to prevent its spread may impact the way you participate in clinical trials.

We know the Food and Drug Administration in America has released new guidelines for industry and clinicians on how to safely conduct trials during this pandemic.

If you’re an Australian currently part of a clinical trial and have any concerns relating to the trial, and how the current health pandemic might affect that trial, we encourage you to speak to your clinical trial lead or key contact as soon as possible.

Currently all state and territory Departments of Health, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the Clinical Trials Project Reference Group (CTPRG) are working together to provide some guidance in relation to existing and planned clinical trials.

Their number one priority is the safety and well-being of trial participants and their families, healthcare professionals, researchers and other staff involved in patient care and research.

Clinical trial teams across Australia are looking at how they might need to adapt their trials based on the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic including:

  • Making a call on whether a trial should continue, be modified or suspended
  • Understanding the ability for participants to continue their involvement and looking at alternatives where possible (i.e. teletrials)
  • Being aware of the capacity of research and clinical support staff as well as availability of resources in the current healthcare environment

Are clinical trials included under the ‘essential travel’ classification?

Yes. Clinical trials play an imperative, and essential, role in advancing medicines (including vaccines) for the entire community and therefore meet the essential travel requirements.

Making a blood donation

As further restrictions are placed on non-essential activities during the current health pandemic, we should all keep in mind blood and related blood products are an important part of treatment for many people with blood cancer.

Blood and plasma donation remains absolutely vital and the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood donor centres are currently open and ready to welcome donors who are healthy and well.

There is no evidence coronavirus is transmissible by blood transfusion, and strict screening processes mean people who are unwell aren’t allowed to donate blood. 

Existing blood donors are encouraged to keep appointments if they’re fit and well, and new donors are invited to come forward to help meet demand over the coming weeks and months.

For the latest advice in relation to blood donations and coronavirus visit www.donateblood.com.au/page/coronavirus-update.

Vaccine development

The Federal Government is fast tracking $2 million in funding to support Australia’s best researchers as they work to understand and respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.

As of March 13, 2020, the WHO had listed 41 candidate COVID-19 vaccines were in development.

The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne was the first scientific lab outside of China to copy the COVID-19 virus.

Can you help us continue to provide information and support like this to those with blood cancer through the coronavirus pandemic? We urgently need your help right now. Find out more.

Last updated on April 2nd, 2020

Developed by the Leukaemia Foundation in consultation with people living with a blood cancer, Leukaemia Foundation support staff, haematology nursing staff and/or Australian clinical haematologists. This content is provided for information purposes only and we urge you to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis, treatment and answers to your medical questions, including the suitability of a particular therapy, service, product or treatment in your circumstances. The Leukaemia Foundation shall not bear any liability for any person relying on the materials contained on this website.

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