Greater access to key treatment option for patients with rare flesh eating ulcer

There’s new hope for Australians living with a severe flesh eating ulcer, with expanded subsidised access to a key medicine on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

From 1 December, access to Rimycin 150® and 300® (rifampicin) will be expanded on the PBS for the treatment of Buruli ulcer (Mycobacterium ulcerans infection).

It is expected 425 patients could benefit from the listing each year. Without subsidy they would pay approximately $140 per year for this treatment.

This terrible disease has been found to occur in Far North Queensland as well as parts of coastal Victoria, including East Gippsland, Phillip Island, the Mornington Peninsula and the Bellarine Peninsula

There has been a spike in cases of the bacterial infection over recent years, which causes weeping ulcers and can lead to permanent deformity.

Buruli ulcer belongs to the same family of bacteria that causes tuberculosis and leprosy, and typically affects a person’s legs or arms.

An antibiotic, Rimycin is used in combination with other medicines to fight the bacterial infection causing the ulcer, and helps stop the spread of the ulcer.

On 26 April 2018, the Government announced funding of $1.5 million in medical research to help better understand Mycobacterium ulcerans and reduce their spread in Australia.

The two-year ‘Beating Buruli in Victoria’ study is being led by Professor Tim Stinear from the University of Melbourne, who has found mosquitoes are likely to be a key factor in spreading the bacteria to humans.

The study is also supported by Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the Doherty Institute, Barwon Health, Austin Health, CSIRO, Agriculture Victoria, the University of Melbourne and Mornington Peninsula Shire.

The ‘Beating Buruli in Victoria’ project hopes to actively disrupt disease transmission for the first time, and lead to the development of evidence-based policies and guidelines that can help stop the spread of Buruli ulcer around Victoria and possibly overseas.

Identifying the source of these infections will enable public health authorities to alert the public to avoid whatever is causing the ulcers, and therefore reduce adverse health outcomes.

The Australian Government is continuing to make important medicines available to Australians at affordable prices.

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

Since 2013, the Government has approved more than 2,500 new or amended listings on the PBS through an overall investment of $11.8 billion.

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

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