New PBS-listed drugs set to save Australians thousands

More than 30,000 Australians suffering from chronic illnesses will save thousands of dollars each year after three drugs were added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

The drugs treat high cholesterol, muscular atrophy and chronic migraines and anyone using them is set to save at least $6500 annually and up to $123,000 per year.

Federal health minister Greg Hunt said: “From 1 August, the Morrison government is listing a number of new medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme to support thousands of Australians with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), high cholesterol and chronic migraine.”

The new additions are:

  • Praluent – used to treat hypocholesterolaemia (high levels of cholesterol in the blood)
  • Evrysdi – used to treat spinal muscular atrophy
  • Ajovy – used to treat chronic migraines.

This drug is used to treat hypercholesterolaemia, or too much cholesterol in the blood. According to the Heart Foundation, hypercholesterolaemia is a major cause of heart disease and stroke and is generally caused by a high-cholesterol diet and a sedentary lifestyle.

Read: High cholesterol linked to brain health

The condition affects more than 20,000 Australians and a typical year’s supply before it was listed on the PBS would have cost around $6500.

Alfred hospital cardiologist James Shaw told The Australian he welcomed the addition of Praluent to the PBS as there are almost 100,000 heart attacks and strokes in Australia each year.

“The PBS listing of an additional cholesterol-lowering therapy is very much welcomed,” he  said.

This drug is being hailed as something of a miracle drug in the field of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). SMA is a somewhat rare but debilitating genetic condition that is estimated to affect one in 10,000 births in Australia.

The condition is characterised by progressive muscle wastage that can eventually render sufferers unable to walk, talk or, in some severe cases, even breathe.

Read: Pension rates, PBS entitlements, health fund changes

Previous treatments have mostly revolved around painful and invasive spinal injections, so the orally taken Evrysdi is a breakthrough for sufferers. A year’s supply of the drug without PBS subsidies would set patients back around $123,000.

“One in 10,000 births in Australia are affected by SMA and the disease is the number one genetic cause of death of babies under two in Australia. There is no known cure for SMA,” Mr Hunt said.

“One in 35 people in Australia unknowingly carry the SMA gene. Being a carrier does not mean you are affected by the condition.”

This is a new type of medication to treat chronic migraine that works by blocking a protein called calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), which is believed to play a role in the debilitating headaches.

Around 20 per cent of the Australian population experience migraines at some stage of their lives, but affects those aged 35-45 the most. Administered via injection or automatic pen, Ajovy is aimed at treating the most severe cases.

“Without PBS subsidy, around 10,000 Australians would pay around $6700 per year for this new treatment,” the minister said.

Read: Which headaches you need worry about

The inclusion of Ajovy on the PBS was welcomed by neurologists.

“The good news is that today’s listing of Ajovy provides an additional option for the Australians who are still yet to optimally manage this debilitating and complex neurological condition,” Dr Susan Tomlinson, neurologist at Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital told TND.

“Emotional stress and changes in lifestyle habits can worsen the clinical course of migraine, and it is acknowledged that COVID-19 could be adding to the already significant burden of migraine in Australia.”

Do you or a loved one suffer from any of these conditions? Will the listing of these drugs on the PBS make a big difference? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Written by Brad Lockyer

Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.

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