New Mesothelioma Immunotherapy Drugs Listed on PBS

Asbestos Disease Support Society

Asbestos Disease Support Society Welcomes New Mesothelioma Immunotherapy Drugs Listed on PBS

As part of a new immunotherapy treatment, Australians living with inoperable malignant mesothelioma will now be able to access the nation’s first reimbursed immunotherapy for this cancer with the listing of two immunotherapy drugs on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer with poor survival rates and is mainly caused by exposure to asbestos.

From July 1, 2021 OPDIVO® (nivolumab) plus YERVOY® (ipilimumab) will be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme for the treatment of unresectable malignant mesothelioma. Known as ‘checkpoint inhibitors’ these immunotherapy drugs work together to help activate the immune system to recognise and attack cancer cells.

ADSS General Manager, Trevor Torrens said, “PBS listing for these new immunotherapies represents a significant milestone for Australians living with mesothelioma due to the substantial cost reduction of these drugs to patients for the treatment of this disease. It’s not a cure but a great step in the right direction”.

“Not only do these immunotherapy drugs increase survival compared to the current standard of treatment using chemotherapy, but we are also finding that in most cases the side-affects normally associated with chemotherapy are less adverse”, Mr Torrens said.

Each year, between 700-800 Australians are diagnosed with mesothelioma, which has a latency period (the time from exposure to diagnosis) of many decades. Men are more likely to be diagnosed with mesothelioma due to workplace exposure to asbestos. However, non-occupational exposure can occur through contact with asbestos contaminated clothing or during renovations, also known as “third wave” exposure.

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