Changes include medications to treat genetic kidney disease

The Federal Government has recently made several new drugs available via the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

As of January 1, patients can now access medications for rare lung cancer, genetic kidney disease and treatment of seizures.

Here’s what you need to know.

Rare lung cancer

Crizotinib (otherwise known by its trade name, Xalkori) is now available for lung cancer patients with a c-ROS proto-oncogene 1 (ROS1) gene rearrangement.

According to Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, the drug may slow or even stop the growth of stage IIIB, locally advanced, or stage IV, metastatic, non-small cell lung cancer.

“Without the PBS subsidy the drug would cost over $140,000 per patient, per year. Patients with this rare form of lung cancer will now pay a maximum of $40.30 per script or just $6.50 per script for concessional patients, including pensioners,” Minister Hunt said.

“This medicine has the potential to save and prolong the lives of people with this condition and will for the first time become affordable for families battling the one of the rarest type of cancers.”

Genetic kidney disease

Tolvaptan (trade name Jinarc) is also now available and is being described as “the first effective drug treatment for autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease [ADPKD] on the PBS”.

According to Minister Hunt, patients will now need to pay $40.30 per script (or $6.50 for concessional patients) rather than $23,600 per year for the medication.

“The disease is a genetic, progressive and painful disease in which cysts develop and grow in the kidneys. Most people with this disease will need dialysis or a transplant by the time they are 60,” Minister Hunt said.

“There are also multiple complications from the disease, which may include hypertension, chronic and acute pain, repeated urinary tract infections, and depression as the cysts grow and quality of life declines.”

Treatment of seizures

Everolimus (trade name Afinitor), a drug designed for the treatment of refractory seizures associated with tuberous sclerosis, is also now available via the PBS.

Instead of paying close to $17,000 per year for the medication, patients can now purchase a script for $40.30, or $6.50 for concessional patients.

“Tuberous sclerosis complex causes benign tumours to grow in the brain and on other vital organs. It usually affects the central nervous system and results in a combination of symptoms including seizures,” Minister Hunt said.

“Treatment with [everolimus] may reduce the frequency of seizures.”