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New treatment available for Australians with leukaemia


From 1 December 2021, Australians with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) will have access to a new treatment option on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

The Morrison Government is expanding the list of Venclexta (venetoclax) for the treatment of AML, for use in combination with azacitidine.

AML is a type of cancer that appears suddenly and grows quickly. AML occurs when immature white blood cells called blasts become cancerous. These abnormal blast cells are known as leukaemia cells.

Because the leukaemia cells are immature and abnormal, they don’t carry out the usual infection-fighting role of white blood cells. In AML, changes in these cells prevent them from turning into mature blood cells, resulting in too many of them and too few mature blood cells, platelets and other white blood cells in the blood.

Venclexta targets and blocks the action of a specific protein within leukaemia cells called BCL-2. Blocking this protein helps to kill and reduce the number of cancer cells, and may slow the spread of the disease.

In 2021, almost 5,000 Australians were diagnosed with leukaemia. In Australia, it is estimated that around 1,100 people are diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) each year. AML becomes more common with age and mostly occurs after 65.

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, said having access to Venclexta, which is already listed on the PBS for other conditions, will give AML sufferers more treatment options and better outcomes.

“Around 340 Australian patients a year will benefit from this expanded listing, who without the PBS subsidy would may more than $88,800 per course of treatment. From 1 December, they’ll pay $41.30 per script or $6.60 with a concession card,” Minister Hunt said.

“Since 2013, the Coalition Government had approved more than 2,800 new or amended listings on the PBS. This represents an average of around 30 listings or amendments per month – or one each day – at an overall investment by the Government of $14 billion.

“Our Government’s commitment to ensuring Australians can access affordable medicines, when they need them, remains rock solid.”

This PBS listing has been recommended by the independent Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee.


Original content from The Hon Greg Hunt MP media page. Note: Content has been edited for style and length.

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Nina Alvarez is a Content Producer for Healthcare Channel. Her interests include writing, particularly about the healthcare sector and the many ways it can improve to further benefit people from all walks of life.


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