Australia at risk of falling behind USA and Europe in preventing deadly recurrence of Melanoma

Australia at risk of falling behind USA and Europe in preventing deadly recurrence of Melanoma

23 August 2019

Federal government urged to provide certainty of access to immunotherapy for high risk melanoma patients.

Melanoma Institute Australia is urging the federal government to undertake a timely and efficient review of an immunotherapy treatment effective in preventing the deadly spread of melanoma, and fast track its listing on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). 

Immunotherapy nivolumab was one of three treatments for resected Stage III metastatic melanoma submitted to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) for consideration for PBS listing. 

All three treatments are effective in preventing melanoma recurrence and its spread to other organs including the brain, lungs and liver. Immunotherapy nivolumab is effective for the majority of these high risk patients.

This afternoon the federal government announced nivolumab had been deferred for further consideration, while a targeted combination therapy (effective for less than half these patients) was approved and a third treatment was rejected.

Co-Medical Directors of Melanoma Institute Australia, Professor Georgina Long and Professor Richard Scolyer, said whilst they were very pleased to see one treatment listed, they were disappointed for the majority of high risk melanoma patients that the immunotherapy treatment was not.

‘It is a sad irony that Australia has the highest melanoma rates in the world, yet we risk falling behind the USA and many European countries where this immunotherapy preventing melanoma recurrence in the majority of these high risk patients is already available and subsidised,’ said Professor Georgina Long.

‘Australian patients would like certainty that they will be able to access affordable immunotherapy treatment which has proven successful in clinical trials and which many hundreds of patients have been forced to access on compassionate grounds or face costs of tens of thousands of dollars,’ she said. 

One Australian dies from melanoma every five hours. Melanoma Institute Australia is leading global efforts to find effective treatments for all melanoma patients, and eventually reach zero deaths from melanoma. 

‘It is frustrating, disheartening and disappointing for Australia to be leading the international melanoma research effort, yet our own government is lagging behind the rest of the world in ensuring high risk patients have subsidised access to this proven immunotherapy treatment,’ Professor Scolyer added. 

‘We urge the federal governent to fast track further consideration of this immunotherapy and remain hopeful it will eventually be listed on the PBS,’ he said.

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