New treatment for Australians with leukaemia in Wide Bay

From 1 December 2021, people in Wide Bay with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) will have access to a new treatment option on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) – cutting the cost of life-saving drug Venclexta from more than $88,000 per course to as low as $6.60.

Federal Member for Wide Bay and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Llew O’Brien welcomed the new PBS listing, which expands the list of Venclexta (venetoclax) for the treatment of AML, for use in combination with azacitidine.

“About 1,100 people are diagnosed with AML in Australia every year, and the last thing they should have to worry about is whether they and their family can afford the medical treatment they need,” Mr O’Brien said.

“This expanded PBS listing means that AML patients and their families in our local community will be able to access these treatments at an affordable price, reducing their out of pocket costs so that more people can afford to access this important treatment.

“The Liberal and Nationals Government has always been committed to ensuring Australians can access the medicines and treatments they need, when they need them, and we have a strong track record with new listings on the PBS to reduce medical bills for families.”

AML is a type of cancer that appears suddenly and grows quickly. AML occurs when immature white blood cells called blasts become cancerous. These abnormal blast cells are known as leukaemia cells.

Because the leukaemia cells are immature and abnormal, they don’t carry out the usual infection-fighting role of white blood cells. In AML, changes in these cells prevent them from turning into mature blood cells, resulting in too many of them and too few mature blood cells, platelets and other white blood cells in the blood.

Venclexta® targets and blocks the action of a specific protein within leukaemia cells called BCL-2. Blocking this protein helps to kill and reduce the number of cancer cells, and may slow the spread of the disease.

In 2021, almost 5,000 Australians were diagnosed with leukaemia. In Australia, it is estimated that around 1,100 people are diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) each year. AML becomes more common with age and mostly occurs after 65.

Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt said having access to Venclexta®, which is already listed on the PBS for other conditions, will give AML sufferers more treatment options and better outcomes.

“Around 340 Australian patients a year will benefit from this expanded listing, who without the PBS subsidy would pay more than $88,800 per course of treatment. From 1 December, they’ll pay $41.30 per script or $6.60 with a concession card,” Minister Hunt said.

“Since 2013, the Coalition Government had approved more than 2,800 new or amended listings on the PBS. This represents an average of around 30 listings or amendments per month – or one each day – at an overall investment by the Government of $14 billion.”

This PBS listing has been recommended by the independent Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee.