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Drug giant’s brutal blow to Aussie breast cancer patients

 

Terminally ill breast cancer patients will have to pay $1600 a month for a lifesaving treatment, after the drug company rejected a government subsidy.

Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca was granted a subsidy for its drug Faslodex in July through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) but decided to walk away from the deal.

The decision has left in the lurch an estimated 500 terminally ill women who have breast cancer that has spread through their body - many of whom can't afford to pay.

The subsidy would have reduced the price of the drug down to $41 for general patients and $6.60 for pensioners.

Tracey Keogh has branded the drug company ‘cruel’ for abandoning Aussie women with breast cancer. Picture: Rob Leeson.
Tracey Keogh has branded the drug company ‘cruel’ for abandoning Aussie women with breast cancer. Picture: Rob Leeson.

The company would not explain to News Corp why it had pulled out of the subsidy deal although it is believed it was unhappy with the price the government wished to pay.

"The company is unable to proceed under the current conditions established for PBS listing," the company told News Corp in a statement.

"Our ideal outcome would be PBS listing for Faslodex, and we remain committed to providing access to patients for the foreseeable future," the company said.

More than 1700 patients had been able to access the medication at reduced prices under a patient access scheme run by the company.

The decision to abandon the government subsidy comes after the company more than doubled the price breast cancer sufferers had to pay for the drug per month from $700 to $1600 per treatment in 2018.

 

‘How would they feel?’ Tracey Keogh, pictured with her pooch. Picture: Rob Leeson
‘How would they feel?’ Tracey Keogh, pictured with her pooch. Picture: Rob Leeson

 

Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) and patients using the treatment are enraged at the lost subsidy and are demanding the pharmaceutical giant explain its decision to the women who can't afford the life saving treatment.

"They're walking away from women who are dying," said BCNA's Kirsten Pilatti.

Melbourne mum Tracey Keogh paid $85,000 for the treatment in combination with another cancer drug Ibrance and gained an extra 16 months of life.

She used this precious time for a round the world trip with her 19 year old son and raised nearly $200,000 for cancer research.

"What if it was their families, someone they knew, how would they feel?" she asked.

"It really seems cruel, it's cruel and unfair and I want to say selfish, can't they meet somewhere halfway," she said.

"This money should be for our families when we go not for expenses like drugs that are lifesaving," she said.

Ms Keogh said she was racked with guilt because she was able to afford the medication when others could not, she has just a few months left to live after the cancer outsmarted all available medication.

 

Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) and patients using the treatment are enraged at the lost subsidy. Picture: Rob Leeson
Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) and patients using the treatment are enraged at the lost subsidy. Picture: Rob Leeson

 

Making the problem even worse is the fact the other medications women take in combination with Faslodex.

These treatments called CDK inhibitors - Ibrance, Kisqali and Verzenio - are only subsidised for women with metastatic breast cancer who have tried no other cancer treatments.

Women who have already exhausted other treatments have to pay $4000 per month for CDK inhibitors on top of the $1600 for Faslodex.

A spokesperson for the Minister for Health, Greg Hunt said there is no barrier to the company proceeding with a listing on the PBAC.

However, "the Government is unable to list a medicine on the PBS where the medicine company does not wish to proceed with the listing following a PBAC recommendation," he said.

"The Government stands with Australians with breast cancer and has requested the company resubmit a listing proposal that is consistent with the recommendations of the PBAC, or address any outstanding issues they have through a further submission to the PBAC."

The PBAC will be considering an extension to the listing of Kisqali in combination with Faslodex in November 2020.

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Originally published as Drug giant's brutal blow to Aussie breast cancer patients