Life-saving melanoma drug combination listed on PBS
A drug combination that offers stage 4 melanoma patients the highest change of survival will be listed on the PBS from December 1, a move which specialists at the Victorian Melanoma Service say could buy some patients at least four more years of life.
Dr Andrew Haydon, a medical oncologist with the Victorian Melanoma Service at The Alfred, was involved in a worldwide clinical trial combining Nivolumab and Ipilimumab in advanced melanoma. Dr Haydon welcomed the Federal Government’s announcement last week to list the drug combination on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
“This combination of treatments has the best results available currently worldwide – it offers young people with melanoma the best chance of long-term survival,” Dr Haydon said.
Six years ago, people diagnosed with the very aggressive stage four melanoma were given between six and nine months to live. However, three years after treatment with this combination immunotherapy, almost 60 per cent of patients are alive, and roughly 50 per cent are alive four years on.
While the drugs were listed individually on the PBS, the treatment combination was previously very expensive – putting it out of reach for most VMS patients. Dr Haydon said PBAC’s decision to list the combination on the PBS would make it accessible to more Australians.
“Previously there were few melanoma treatments which offered patients much hope,” Dr Haydon said.
“This announcement will provide hope to many people who have been diagnosed with this disease, and we will keep working to find more treatments that offer even better outcomes.”
The Victorian Melanoma Service at The Alfred is one of Australia’s largest multidisciplinary treatment services for melanoma. Its researchers aim to enhance detection and prevent deaths caused by melanoma.