List of new drugs added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

Australians facing conditions ranging from breast cancer to spinal muscular atrophy and a painful inflammatory condition will soon have cheaper access to treatment.

Eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) causes difficulty swallowing and chest discomfort and affects approximately 2,000 people nationwide.

Instead of paying up to $5,000 a year for the EoE drug budesonide, Health Minister Greg Hunt announced that patients would spend $42.50 per script, or $6.80 with a card of concession, after registration in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

Gastroenterologist Sanjay Nandurkar from Eastern Health in Melbourne says treatment is crucial to preventing permanent damage to the esophagus.

“Due to the complexity of EoE, diagnosis of the disease in adults can take up to six years from the onset of symptoms and can lead to anxiety and/or depression in some patients,” he said.

“If left untreated, 30-50% of people living with EoE are at risk of food suddenly getting stuck in the esophagus (food impaction), which may require removal in the emergency room.”

A similar PBS listing for the treatment of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) in young children and pre-symptomatic patients will save Australian families over $2.5 million a year.

The antibody drug sacituzumab govitecan will also save patients with triple-negative breast cancer about $80,000 per treatment.

Help for opiate addicts

Mr Hunt says the new lists are among 2,900 the government has approved since 2013 and continue its commitment to ensuring Australians can access treatment without huge outlays.

Buprenorphine, sold as Buvida and Australia’s first long-acting treatment for opioid addiction, is now also available to more patients following an extension of its indication on the PBS.

SMART Recovery Australia welcomed the news on Sunday.

“We are fortunate to live in a country that invests in supporting this community through national support programs and holistic support,” said executive director Ryan McGlaughlin.

Mr McGlaughlin said the extension would also mean increased flexibility for patients having more time to find work or study and contribute to society.

-PAA

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