New blood cancer treatment now available through Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) | Leukaemia Foundation

New blood cancer treatment now available through Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS)

Wednesday, 02 April 2014


From 1 October 2013, patients with a rare form of the blood cancer, myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) will have access to treatment through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

Lenalidomide (Revlimid®) will be available for patients who have transfusion-dependent anaemia that is associated with a genetic abnormality know as myelodysplastic syndrome with deletion 5q (MDS 5q-).

MDS is a type of blood cancer that affects the production of normal blood cancer cells in the bone marrow and can lead to severe anemia, infections and bleeding.

Approximately 25% of MDS cases will develop into acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) which is an aggressive form of leukaemia.

Rachel Symington, 41, a Townsville woman will be one of the first people in Australia to benefit from the drug being listed on the PBS.

When Ms Symington was diagnosed about seven years ago the drug was not PBS approved and cost up to $100,000 per year.

“It’s given me some extra time with my family. I have a son that was really little at the time (of diagnosis),” Ms Symington said in a recent interview with the Townsville Bulletin.

“Now, even though he’s going through his high school years, it’s the most important part of his life and he doesn’t need a sick mother – I need to focus on him, not him focusing on me.”

Dr Melita Kenealy, a Consultant Haemotologist at Cabrini Hospital said, “Historically, treatment for this rare disease often involved red blood cell transfusions to help improve patient symptoms. This PBS listing gives patients hope of being able to become transfusion independent.”

Lenalidomide was approved by the Theraputic Goods Adminstration in December 2007 and was PBS listed in November 2009 for people with myeloma who had relapsed or were no longer responding to the standard treatment.