Landmark PBS listing for Australians with bowel cancer

The Hon Greg Hunt MP

Minister for Health and Aged Care

The Morrison Government is providing access to a new treatment through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) to support around Australians who are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, a type of bowel cancer.

In 2020, bowel cancer was the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia, with around 15,000 Australians diagnosed with the disease each year. Sadly more than 5,000 lives are lost to bowel cancer each year, making it the second leading cause of cancer death in Australia.

For the first time, Keytruda® (pembrolizumab) will have its listing extended on the PBS to include the treatment of unresectable or metastatic mismatch repair deficient colorectal cancer.

This is the first immunotherapy treatment available to Australians with this type of cancer, which cannot be removed by surgery or has spread to an area outside the colon/rectum.

Keytruda® belongs to a new class of immunotherapy medicines that help the body’s own immune system to detect and fight cancer cells. The drug is already available on the PBS for other types of cancer, including lung cancer and melanoma.

More than 580 Australians a year will benefit from this listing. Without PBS subsidy, patients might pay more than $150,000 per course of treatment. From 1 August, it will be available for $41.30 per script or just $6.60 if they have a concession card.

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

Earlier this year, the Government announced $9.7 million for a new National Bowel Cancer Screening Program awareness campaign.

The campaign will aim to increase the numbers of Australians taking their free bowel cancer test and will focus on men aged 50 to 59 years, people living in regional and remote Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and individuals from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse communities.

When detected early, the majority of (around 90 per cent) of bowel cancers can be successfully treated.

Our Government is increasing its efforts on cancer screening to help more Australians to get early treatment and beat the disease.

Since 2013, the Coalition Government has approved more than 2,600 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 $13.2 billion.

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

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