News Feature | March 28, 2014

Specialised Therapeutics Australia To Increase Pancreatic Cancer Treatment Cost

By Marcus Johnson

Specialised Therapeutics Australia could not come to an agreement with the Australian government on the price of Abraxane, a drug for pancreatic cancer. Researchers have found that the drug has been able to increase the survival rates of pancreatic cancer patients by up to 3%.

The company filed an application with the government to subsidize Abraxane for metastatic pancreatic cancer, but it was ultimately rejected when the negotiations could not yield an acceptable price for both parties. The drug is currently available to breast cancer patients in the country for the price of $36.10. For those with pancreatic cancer, the price leaps to $15,000, a prohibitive price that industry experts believe could deny 1,800 people treatment.

The company released a statement saying that it could not continue to subsidize the price of Abraxane if the government would not. “We understand only too well that this will have a tremendous impact on the ability of many patients and their families to afford the only TGA-approved regimen for metastatic pancreas cancer that has shown greater than two-year survival benefits,” the company wrote in a letter. “I only hope you understand the unfortunate situation we find ourselves in. A company our size cannot be expected to indefinitely subsidize the entire pancreatic population as we have done since 2009.”

Patients with pancreatic cancer and the medical community treating them have both sounded off on their disappointment in the government process. Professor John Zalcberg works at the Peter McCallum Cancer Centre. He said that Abraxane was adding valuable time to patients' lives. “It is really disappointing, and very hard to understand, why it would be rejected at this point,” said Zalcberg. “It means we can only have wealthier people affording it, as opposed to the average person in the street. The PBS is supposed to make drugs equitable for all.”

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