Government’s compassionate inclusion of melanoma drug Keytruda on the PBS.

Cancer treatment celebrated as ‘amazing break-through’

Australian businessman and former Melbourne lord mayor Ron Walker, who accessed the drug from the United States under a test scheme, said the treatment saved his life.

“I was a walking person that was going to die, and with this drug I came back to life again within a year, so it’s [had] an amazing effect on me and it’s having the same effect on others,” he said.

“It’s an amazing drug, it’s a huge step forward and I think that most countries around the world would be applauding what the Australian Government’s done for patients.

“It’s an amazing break-through.”

Ms Ley said that while every individual responded differently to the treatment, unlike chemotherapy and radiotherapy, Keytruda did not make patients sick.

“Icons like Ron Walker have explained how this drug has made them cancer free, sadly that’s not always the case, but what we do know is that new generation drugs increasingly target the individual cells within a tumour, so they allow a person quality of life while they are unwell,” she said.

Professor McArthur said the immune-based treatment worked by “unlocking the power of the body’s own immune system to attack and reject a cancer”.

He said the drug, which is delivered intravenously once every three weeks, was the most “remarkable” he had seen in his career.

“Keytruda is benefiting over 40 per cent of patients with melanoma, with a substantial proportion of patients getting long-term durable responses,” he said.

“Sadly advanced melanoma leads to the death of almost 1,500 Australian patients a year, Keytruda is going to change the lives dramatically of many of these patients, with a significant portion of patients we believe becoming longer-term survivors.

“Advanced melanoma is fatal in nearly all patients, so without drugs like Keytruda and other new melanoma drugs, the future for patients is grim – but now it is different.”

Despite the immense cost of the treatment, and the burden of the PBS scheme on the nation’s budget, the government has taken the decision to add Keytruda to the PBS.

The government is to be applauded for this verdict.

Categories: Community Issues, Technical Analysis

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