Breakthrough cancer drugs added to PBS

By | December 29, 2020

The cost of cancer treatments can be just as hard a hit as the diagnosis itself, with some cancer drugs costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Thousands of new and renewed drugs are listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) to give Australians access to affordable medicines.


A life-saving cancer drug, Darzalex (daratumumab), has been added to the PBS for the first time and will be available from January 1, federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced on Monday.

Around 1165 patients will benefit from access to this treatment, which might otherwise cost up to $ 160,000 a year.

Patients could now pay as little as $ 41.30 per script, or $ 6.60 with a concession card for a course of the treatment.

The medicine is used to treat multiple myeloma, which is one of the most common blood cancers, and works to mobilise the patient’s own immune system to fight the disease.

It is estimated more than 2300 new cases of multiple myeloma will be diagnosed in Australia and about 18,000 people in Australia are living with this serious condition at any one time.


A significant lung cancer treatment option that costs approximately $ 88,000 a year will soon be available for as little as $ 6.60 per script, thanks to its expanded listing on the PBS.

From January 1, 2021, Australians living with non-small cell lung cancer who have not had prior therapy will benefit from the listing of Tagrisso (osimertinib).

Without the PBS subsidy, patients might pay close to $ 8000 per script or almost $ 88,000 per year for this treatment.

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An average of 1120 patients per year could now pay as little as $ 41.30 per script, or $ 6.60 with a concession card.

Tagrisso is a targeted therapy which works on specific types of cancer cells where a specific mutation is present, to block the growth and spread of these cancer cells.


An ovarian cancer medication that was costing patients more than $ 140,000 per course was added to the PBS from November 1, 2020, effectively dropping the cost significantly.

Listing the drug Lynparza (olaparib) on the PBS has now dropped the cost of the drug for ovarian cancer maintenance treatment to $ 6.60 per script for concession card holders, and around $ 41 per script for general patients.

Almost 1500 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year, and it has the lowest survival rate of any women’s cancer in Australia.


From November 1, treatment for the most common form of liver cancer became available on the PBS.

More than 500 patients per year could benefit from PBS listing of this treatment, which would otherwise cost more than $ 170,000 per course.


The Australian government’s investment in new PBS medicines continues to grow, with more than 2500 new or amended medicines listed on the PBS since 2013, through an overall investment of around $ 12 billion.

“The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme provides access to critical medicines for all Australians,” Mr Frydenberg said in his 2020 budget speech.

The PBS co‑payment for concession card‑holders will remain capped at $ 6.60 per script in 2021.

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The safety net threshold for concession cardholders will remain at $ 316.80 per year.

When a concession cardholder reaches the safety net threshold, they will be eligible for a Safety Net Card and receive PBS medicines free of charge for the rest of 2021.

Other drugs listed on the PBS for 2021 include a treatment for chronic psoriasis, a treatment of Parkinson’s disease and a drug for high cholesterol among many others.

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