Cost Of Drug That Prolongs Life Of Breast Cancer Patients Slashed

Kisqali, a new drug proven to slow the spread of advanced breast cancer, has been listed on the PBS.

When Jenny Crow was told she had advanced breast cancer last year, she thought she would never live a normal life again.

“When I was first diagnosed, I didn’t think I’d make it at all, and here I am today,” Crow told Ten Eyewitness News.

Shortly after receiving the news, her doctor suggested she try a new drug called Kisqali, which, in combination with other treatments, is designed to slow the growth of inoperable or metastatic breast cancers. 

Jenny Crow has advanced breast cancer. Image: Ten News

“I know it’s not a cure, but it’s definitely prolonging my life to spend more time with my family,” she said.

From Sunday, Ribociclib, under the brand name Kisqali, is now listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, bringing hope by to more patients like Crow by “prolonging life”.

“This new class of drugs, in combination with anti-hormonal therapy, extends that from 15 months to about 25 months,” Professor Elgene Lim, breast cancer clinician researcher at the Garvan Institute and St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney, told Ten Eyewitness News.

Under the PBS, the medication will cost $39.50 per script and $6.40 for concession holders, reducing the annual cost for some patients from more than $70,000 to less than $500.

The federal government has listed kisqali on the PBS.

Professor Lim said the drug had been approved on the PBS for metastatic hormone receptor-positive tumours --  the most common form of breast cancer that represents around 70 percent of all cancers.

While the PBS has only made it available to recently-diagnosed women, there is hope it will be extended to many others. 

“If the Pharmaceutical Benefits Committee and the medical experts recommend it, we guarantee we’ll always list it," Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said. 

The makers of Kisqali are awaiting the results of clinical trials to open up the scheme, with researchers now testing its ability to treat other types of breast cancer -- as well as prostate cancer.

“This is just the beginning, it’s huge. I think it’s a very exciting drug,” Lim said.