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# New drugs on the PBS: what they do and why we need them

5 May 2017
Changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

The government has announced additions, amendments and deletions from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Dr Nial Wheate from the Faculty of Pharmacy discusses the seven most notable new additions to the scheme.

• Maximum cost to the patient: A$38.80 Ivacaftor – first approved by the TGA in September 2016 – is used to treat cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that affects the digestive system and lungs of patients. It causes a buildup of thick and sticky mucus in the airways. There is no cure for cystis fibrosis, but ivacaftor acts by better regulating the flow of salts and water in and out of cells, which leads to less mucus buildup. While around 3,300 people in Australia live with cystic fibrosis, only around 10% of patients will benefit from the drug. This is because patients need to have a specific mutation in their DNA called R117H for the drug to be effective. More information - Weekly Dose: Kalydeco, the drug that treats the cause of cystic fibrosis, not just symptoms ## 3. Blinatumomab (Blincyto) • Maximum price from the manufacturer: A$61,975.54

• Maximum cost to the patient: A$38.80 Blinatumomab is a new type of immunotherapy – a treatment that empowers the body’s immune system to fight diseases such as cancer. The drug is approved for use to treat a specific subset of acute lymphoblastic leukaemias (ALL). Around 350 Australians each year are diagnosed with some form of ALL, and it is the most common type of cancer in children. Blinatumomab was first approved by the TGA in November 2015 but an application to list the medicine on the PBS that same year was rejected. It has been reported that the cost for patients before the PBS subsidy was A$127,700 per course of treatment.

## 4. Fosaprepitant (Emend IV)

• Maximum price from the manufacturer: A$115.03 • Maximum cost to the patient: A$38.80

This drug is used to help patients overcome the nausea and vomiting side-effects associated with chemotherapy treatment. Fosaprepitant has been available for doctors to prescribe since 2011, when it was first recommended to be put on the PBS.

## 5. Emtricitabine

• Maximum price from the manufacturer: A$1,500 -$2,600 depending on the formulation

• Maximum cost to the patient: A$38.80 Daclizumab is used to treat multiple sclerosis (MS), a condition that affects the nervous system and interferes with nerve impulses in the brain, spinal chord, and optic nerves (those responsible for vision). It was first approved by the TGA in September 2016. While there is no cure for MS, this drug helps to stop infection-fighting blood cells called T-cells from getting into the brain. This protects the brain from swelling. There are currently around 24,000 Australians who live with MS. ## 7. Nintedanib (Ofev) • Maximum price from the manufacturer: A$3,385.48

• Maximum cost to the patient: A\$38.80

Nintedanib was approved by the TGA in September 2015. It is used to treat idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a condition that causes scarring in the lungs. The amount of scar disease builds up over time. While nintedanib does not cure patients, it provides relief by stopping the enzymes that help create the scarring, thus slowing the disease.

The condition is most prevalent in people over 60 years of age, and affects around 2,600 Australians.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

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