Approve Immunotherapy drugs to be on the PBS for rare cancer sufferers

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21 months ago my wife was diagnosed with Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer, a very rare and aggressive cancer. Following 33 sessions of radiation treatment and taking target medication therapy for the last 19 months, it appears the cancer has returned to her throat. As she can no longer have any more radiation treatment, her oncologist has recommended immunotherapy treatment.

The immunotherapy drug (anti cancer drug) prescribed for my wife is  Pembrolizumad (Keytruda). As my wife was diagnosed with Anaplastic Thyroid cancer and because it is a rare cancer it is not on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). Pembrolizumad has had success with treating Anaplastic Thyroid cancer patients.

Pembrolizumad (Keytruda) is available on the PBS for treating more common cancers e.g. lung cancer, melanoma etc. As it is not listed on the PBS for Anaplastic Thyroid cancer the cost for my wifes treatment (which is every 3 weeks) is $6,307.20 a treatment. After 10 treatment sessions (30 weeks total paid will be $63,072.00) we have been told the cost is reduced substantially. We are both retired and on the pension so the cost is dramatically reducing our retirement savings.

Oncologists and advocates say drugs subsidy approvals systems is not keeping pace with rapid developments in the immunotherapy field for rare cancers. Federal Minister for Health Mr Greg Hunt, please include immunotherapy drugs to be listed on the PBS for any rare cancer!