Three cancer drugs push PBS cost growth


By Michael Woodhead

19 Jan 2018

Cancer drugs are high growth items for the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, a new report shows.

In its expenditure summary for the last year, the PBS lists ruxolitnib (Jakavi), enzalutamide (Xtandi) and trametinib (Mekinist) among the top 20 drugs for growth in costs to the government.

Ruxolitinib, which is licensed for the treatment of patients with primary myelofibrosis or myelofibrosis occurring as a complication of polycythaemia vera, ranked 7th in terms of growth in dollar spending, with costs rising 225% from $12 million to $38.8 million from 2015/16 to 2016/17.

Enzalutamide, the anti-androgen for prostate cancer, was the 11th highest drug for PBS spending increases growth, with costs rising 28% from $54 million to $69.5 million.

And the melanoma drug trametinib  ranked 17th in dollar growth for the PBS, with costs rising from $41.5 million to $51.1 million in the last year

Trastuzumab , which is used for breast cancer, ranked 18th for PBS growth, with costs to government rising from $279,000 to $9.7 million.

Several cancer drugs also featured on the list of drugs with the highest overall PBS costs.

Imatinib (Glivec) ranked 19th, with a cost to government of $81 million, and goserelin (Zoladex) was 30th, with costs of $56.8 million.

The highest cost drugs to the PBS in the last year were the newly-subsidised direct acting antivirals (DAAs) for hepatitis C curative treatment, which also showed the highest growth in costs. The combination of ledipasvir and sofosbuvir (Harvoni) was the highest cost drug, costing the government $ 754 million.

There were about 200 million prescriptions for the year, with a total cost to the PBS of $12 billion in 2016/17.

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