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$80 million injected into subsidised drugs for macular disease patients

27/10/2018By Myles Hume
An $80 million Federal Government investment will allow an additional 4,500 macular disease patients access to subsided drugs.

In what the Macular Disease Foundation Australia (MDFA) described as “a big win” for its community, the government added Dexamethasone (Ozurdex by Allergan) and Ranibizumab (Lucentis by Novartis) to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) on October 24.

According to the Department of Health announcement, the new listings will mean an additional 3,300 patients per year can access Ozurdex for retinal vein occlusion when other treatments have failed. A further 1,200 can access Lucentis for types of choroidal neovascularisation not previously covered by PBS.

“Putting them on the PBS for treatment of a greater number of macular conditions widens the net, which will allow more people than ever before to receive subsidised medicine.”
Macular Disease Foundation Australia CEO Dee Hopkins

The subsidies – which the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee confirmed would come into effect on November 1 – are expected to save patients thousands of dollars each year.

The Ozurdex implant costs patients about $5,000 per year, or $1,350 per script. Under the PBS, patients will pay a maximum of $39.50 per script with concessional patients, including pensioners, paying $6.40.

The Lucentis injection can cost up to $7,000 a year. Now it will also cost $39.50 per script, with concessional patients paying $6.40.

MDFA CEO Ms Dee Hopkins said both drugs were already used by ophthalmologists for macular conditions – but subsidised use through the PBS was limited to selected conditions.

“MDFA has been an active advocate for the additional PBS listings for these drugs,” Hopkins said.

“The expanded listing of Ozurdex on the PBS gives ophthalmologists another subsidised treatment option for patients with reduced vision caused by macular swelling due to a blocked vein in the eye. The two new listings for Lucentis on the PBS mean that subsidised treatment is now available for macular conditions similar to wet AMD.”

According to the Department of Health media release, Lucentis would also be available for other types of rare choroidal neovascularisation that are not related to aged-based macular degeneration, the Department of Health said.

Hopkins said the drugs had the potential to save sight, and in some cases improve vision.

“Putting them on the PBS for treatment of a greater number of macular conditions widens the net, which will allow more people than ever before to receive subsidised medicine," she said.

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“We must remember that these medicines are treatments – not cures. Patients, in many cases, will continue to need treatment for the rest of their lives. Without a PBS listing, cost is a significant barrier to sight-saving treatment.”

Since coming into government, the Coalition says it has subsidised close to $10 billion worth of new medicines.

“These listings have the potential to preserve the precious sight of Australians and make it more affordable. It will make a difference to patients and their families who are battling poor and deteriorating vision due to a range of diseases,” Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said in a statement.

“We are now making on average one new PBS listing every single day.”


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