Leukaemia Foundation – Treatment for more Australians living with myeloma now available through Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS)

Treatment for more Australians living with myeloma now available through Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS)

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

The Leukaemia Foundation has welcomed news the cancer treatment Lenalidomide (Revlimid®) will now be available to more myeloma patients through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

From today, the treatment will be available to newly diagnosed myeloma patients receiving maintenance treatment and who have already undergone an autologous stem cell transplant.

Revlimid® is an oral immune-modulating medicine that helps a patient’s immune system recognise and destroy myeloma cells, as well as preventing new growth.

Federal Minister for Health, The Hon. Greg Hunt MP, said more than 1,000 patients a year are expected to benefit from the listing.

Around 18,000 Australians are currently living with myeloma, also known as multiple myeloma, which is a complex and relatively rare blood cancer affecting the body’s plasma cells most commonly occurring in people aged 40 and older. Myeloma develops when plasma cells undergo a cancerous change to become myeloma cells, multiplying at an increasing rate and taking over the bone marrow. Patients experience weaker bones more prone to breaking, as well as anaemia, bone pain, kidney damage, frequent infections and increased bleeding and bruising.

Currently, 2,074 people are diagnosed with myeloma each year, however this number is increasing and it is expected 4,952 people will be diagnosed with this type of blood cancer every year by 2035. Sadly, already 1,098 Australians lose their life to myeloma each year, and this figure is projected to increase to 3,037 people per year by 2035.[1]

CEO Bill Petch said the Leukaemia Foundation has advocated for increased access to Lenalidomide for people living with myeloma because research has shown it is effective in improving survival outcomes and stalling the progression of the disease by around two years.

“There is a high unmet need for more treatment options for people living with myeloma and the Leukaemia Foundation’s priority is to ensure that all Australians living with blood cancer have access to the best therapies and treatments available,” he said.

“While treatment options and survival rates for some blood cancers are improving, the impact of a diagnosis of myeloma on peoples’ lives and the ongoing affect to their health remains severe.

“New, improved and more timely treatment options like Lenalidomide that can reduce toxicity and side effects, improve survival outcomes and a patient’s quality of life and which are available through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme for all Australians, are always welcome.

“This announcement is another step in improving the lives of myeloma patients, and we look forward to seeing further progress to improve survival and quality of life for all Australians living with this blood cancer into the future.”

Late last year the Leukaemia Foundation released the first State of the Nation: Blood Cancer in Australia report, which led to Minister Hunt supporting the Leukaemia Foundation to establish a Blood Cancer Taskforce. The Taskforce is now working towards delivering Australia’s first National Strategic Action Plan for Blood Cancer, bolstering the Leukaemia Foundation’s goal to see zero lives lost from blood cancer by 2035.

The Blood Cancer Taskforce unites Australia’s leading haematologists, researchers, patients and members of the blood cancer ecosystem for the first time to work with the Leukaemia Foundation to develop the National Action Plan, which will provide a blueprint to tackle key issues facing people affected by blood cancer, today and into the future.

Mr Petch said the formation of the Taskforce and development of the National Action Plan together mark a major milestone for the blood cancer community and will set the national agenda around blood cancer for many years to come. The National Action Plan is due for release later this year.

The Leukaemia Foundation provides free practical, emotional and educational support to Australians diagnosed with a blood cancer including myeloma. The Leukaemia Foundation produces a series of disease specific newsletters including Myeloma News, and invites all Australians living with the disease to subscribe to ongoing information here.

[1] https://prdleukaemia.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/State-of-the-Nation-Blood-Cancer-in-Australia_Leukaemia-Foundation.pdf 

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