What to do when chemotherapy treatments are not approved on PBS in Australia?

What to do when chemotherapy treatments are not approved on PBS in Australia?


Currently many of the drugs used in chemotherapy treatments are financed by the PBS which means that cancer patients receiving treatment do not have to incur a lot of out of pocket expenses from their personal funds. However, the cost of specialised chemotherapy treatment when needed, can wear out the financial means of many patients.

Cancer patients who need to opt for more specialised treatment drugs could be facing emptying their wallets sooner if the same are not funded through government assistance. One such patient is Amanda Reid, who after undergoing a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction a couple of years ago has to face the hard truth of her cancer recurring. She is now in need of further specialised chemotherapy to control her condition.

The cost of her current treatment estimated at $12,800 is no small figure and she is looking to get all the help that she can from friends, family and a whole lot of strangers. To treat her second stage breast cancer with a more targeted chemotherapy treatment; one that is not subsidised under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, MS. Reid has appealed for public donations. Her fundraising efforts have been rewarded by using a crowd sourcing website where within a few days, 112 people had contributed a total of $5985 for her treatment to begin.

Ms. Reid is one among the multitude of cancer patients who look for ways to fundraise for their chemotherapy treatment. Often financial help will come from those who are near to the patient but strangers are equally willing to donate for a similar cause.

Chemotherapy treatment costs are known to have gone up from changes made to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Tightening the system has made it more difficult for private hospitals and community pharmacists to deliver the drugs to the patients. Instead the danger of letting the funding shortfall linger will only make it more likely that treatment costs will be passed on to the patients.

Without timely government intervention, cancer patients can expect to pay higher service charges for their chemotherapy treatment, may need to wait longer to receive the retreatment or have to travel farther to get their treatment. It is estimated that more than 13,000 infusions are put together and dispensed for cancer patients in Australia every week and funding restrictions can impact that figure. If prices were to rise sharply, many patients currently availing services may need to stop receiving them in the future.

Price hikes can also impact private services and make it difficult for far way rural chemotherapy centres to continue functioning.

To assist advanced breast cancer patients in Australia, the federal government has decided to approve Afinitor, a drug for those patient who do not respond to other treatments, to be subsidised under the PBS. The estimated cost of $38,000 for the drug will be funded by the government and is hoped to help the 1400 Australians living with the condition. Likewise, another medication, Mozobil, targeted for stem cell transplant can also benefit 170 patients providing a subsidy of $16,000 a year.


1) Subsidised drugs for breast cancer, HIV: http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2014/04/24/subsidised-drugs-breast-cancer-hiv

2) Cancer drug can buy time: http://www.examiner.com.au/story/2237843/cancer-drug-can-buy-time/?cs=95

3) Fear that costs of chemotherapy will soar: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/fear-that-costs-of-chemotherapy-will-soar-20121120-29o5w.html