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BCNA News 03 Apr 2019

Palbociclib (Ibrance) to be added to PBS for Australians with metastatic breast cancer from 1 May 2019

Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) has welcomed the Australian Government’s announcement that a second CDK inhibitor, palbociclib (Ibrance), will be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) as first line treatment for people newly diagnosed with metastatic hormone receptor positive, HER2-negative breast cancer from 1 May this year.

This follows the listing on 1 July 2018 of the CDK inhibitor ribociclib (Kisqali).

BCNA ran a concerted advocacy campaign over a number of years to have a CDK inhibitor listed on the PBS, including an online petition with more than 32,000 signatories.

While the addition of palbociclib to the PBS is good news and gives people newly diagnosed with metastatic disease a second CDK inhibitor option, BCNA’s concern remains for women and men seeking access to a CDK inhibitor as a second or later line treatment. BCNA regularly receives calls from women and men who have already had some treatment for metastatic breast cancer and are trying to access one of these new, expensive drugs.

Unfortunately neither palbociclib nor ribociclib is listed on the PBS for second or later line treatment. The process for listing requires the pharmaceutical companies to run clinical trials to ensure the drugs are beneficial as later line treatments, and then present the findings to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC), an independent committee that makes recommendations to the Government on new drugs for the PBS. Currently there is not enough data to support a recommendation. The Government is not able to add drugs to the PBS without the PBAC recommendation so now it is up to the pharmaceutical companies to gather data and present it to PBAC. You can read more about how drugs are listed on the PBS here.

In the meantime, some people are able to access palbociclib as a later line treatment through either a clinical trial or a patient access program run by the drug company, Pfizer. However to access the program, there is a $40,000 cost, which makes it too expensive for most individuals and families.

BCNA recognises there are complexities with the PBS listing process and is talking to the PBAC about its processes.  In the meantime, we have written to Pfizer urging it to reduce the patient co-payment to make palbociclib more affordable to everyday Australians who are wanting to use it as a later line treatment and we will be calling publicly on Pfizer to review its program.

If you are interested in palbociclib as a later line treatment, you can talk to your medical oncologist about the access program.