Life Wellbeing Slate of new drugs join Pharmaceutical Benefits

Slate of new drugs join Pharmaceutical Benefits

Without the PBS subsidy, around 890 Australians would face annual bills of $60,000 for the liver medication.
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Thousands of Australians living with schizophrenia, liver disease, lymphoma and anaphylaxis will gain access to new treatments via listings on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme this week.

Reagila, an antipsychotic drug approved in over 52 countries, will become available to adults with schizophrenia from Wednesday.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt says it’s expected more than 39,500 Australians who would otherwise have paid more than $1200 a year for treatment will benefit from the PBS subsidy.

He says another first, Ocaliva, will also be listed on Wednesday for the treatment of primary biliary cholangitis, a chronic disease which causes inflammation and scarring of the bile ducts within the liver.

Women are 10 times more likely to develop PBC than men and while there is currently no cure, treatment can help slow progression. Without the PBS subsidy, around 890 Australians per year might pay more than $60,000 per course of treatment.

Anapen, an alternative brand of adrenaline auto-injector, will also be listed for anaphylaxis, the most severe form of allergic reaction.

In addition, patients will also have access to a new strength of this medicine in auto-injector form. Over 126,000 people would otherwise pay approximately $80 for this treatment without PBS subsidy

Australians living with previously untreated CD30 positive peripheral T-cell lymphoma will also benefit from the extension of Adcetri on the PBS.

Taking aim at schizophrenia

Mr Hunt said schizophrenia, a serious psychiatric disorder with a wide range of symptoms, affects about one in 100 people.

Its treatment does not involve a “one size fits all” approach and sufferers need affordable access to a range of solutions, according to Professor Ian Hickie from Sydney University’s Brain and Mind Centre.

“Schizophrenia is a complex and often persistent mental illness,” Dr Hickie said. “It not only affects brain function and behaviour but is also associated with serious impacts on physical health.”

Reagila works by indirectly targeting two neurotransmitters, or chemical pathways, in the brain – dopamine and serotonin.

Richard, who is a mental health advocate and policy advisor living with schizophrenia in Sydney, says mental illness should be accepted as physical illness is.

“Everyone needs love and hope, and this applies to those living with a mental illness too,” the 40-year-old said.

“Timely and affordable access to a range of treatment options plays an important role in effectively managing schizophrenia, while importantly, arming the patient community with hope.”

Mental Illness Fellowship of Australia chief executive Tony Stevenson also welcomed the subsidised medication.

“The availability and accessibility of affordable treatment options for adults living with schizophrenia is crucial for this patient community, given the stigma they experience with the disorder, and resulting social isolation,” Mr Stevenson said.

“Sadly, stigma can contribute to the impact of psychosis in schizophrenia, delays in accessing treatment, social isolation, stress, and furthermore, places those affected at higher risk for a more severe course of illness.”

Mr Hunt said since the federal government had approved more than 2700 new or amended listings on the PBS since 2013.

“This represents an average of around 30 listings or amendments per month, or one each day, at an overall investment by the government of $13.6 billion,” he said.


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