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BCNA News 03 Nov 2017

Important new breast cancer drug approved – but cost keeps it out of reach for many

BCNA is pleased to learn that the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has approved for sale in Australia the second of a new class of drugs called CDK inhibitors for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer. The Novartis drug ribociclib now joins Pfizer’s palbociclib on the Australian market.

Ribociclib and palbociclib are used to treat a particular type of metastatic breast cancer. In clinical trials, these drugs have been found to substantially improve progression free survival (the length of time before the cancer progresses or spreads). Clinical trials are now underway to also test these drugs in women with high risk early breast cancers.

Unfortunately, for most Australian women, these drugs are unaffordable as they are not currently subsidised through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), despite being accepted as standard of care in a number of international settings. BCNA commends Novartis for opening a compassionate access scheme for Australian women newly diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer who would benefit from access to ribociclib.

‘While it’s good news that ribociclib has been approved for sale in Australia the cost of these drugs keeps them out of reach for many Australian women. These drugs are already available to women in many other countries and Australia is lagging behind,’ Christine said.

‘Overall survival is of course the ultimate aim of treatment but progression free survival or slowing down the course of disease is also important to women. These drugs are taken as tablet therapy and are very well tolerated, allowing women more time to live their lives to the full. Being able to delay the onset of chemotherapy and all of the associated toxicities and hospital visits can make a huge difference to the lives of women with metastatic breast cancer – they can continue working, they can travel, and they can spend time with their families,’ she said.

BCNA will continue to advocate to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) and the Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt for listing of one or more CDK inhibitors on the PBS.

‘It is not acceptable to the Australian community that only some women are able to afford these important new drugs due to high cost,’ Christine said.

More information on palbociclib and ribociclib can be found on our Palbociclib petition update page