New Year Brings Drug to Australian Meso Sufferers

Starting January 1st, 2008, Australians who are suffering from the asbestos-related cancer known as mesothelioma will be able to affordably access the drug Alimta, which will officially become one of the country’s government subsidized medications.

As of the first day of the new year, Alimta – the only treatment available specifically for this aggressive cancer of the lung or stomach lining – will be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). Previously, those who wanted to access the drug had to pay large amounts from their own pockets.

Health Minister Nicola Roxon said the listing of Alimta was an important announcement that followed the “tireless campaigning” of Bernie Banton, who died of mesothelioma in November at age 61.

“Bernie was a great Australian hero and it is due to his efforts that many people will understand the significance of this decision,” she said.
An article in the Australian notes that about 600 Australians each year are diagnosed with mesothelioma. Medical studies indicate that by the year 2020, approximately 18,000 individuals will have become victims of this dreaded disease, which takes anywhere from 20 – 50 years to manifest itself and usually kills its victims within a year of diagnosis. With drugs like Alimta, however, mesothelioma patients are living slightly longer and more comfortably while fighting the disease.

Prior to the decision to list the drug on the PBS, those who could afford it were paying $20,000 or more for six treatments. The exorbitant price kept sufferers – most of whom are blue-collar workers – from being able to obtain the drug. With the new plan, meso patients will pay a maximum of $31.30 for each prescription and some will pay as little as $5 per dose.

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