When 54-year-old Goorambat resident Anne-Marie Greenway was diagnosed with aggressive metastatic breast cancer she did not expect to be told to pay $60000 a year if she wanted to stay alive.
However, that is her reality and she has been told that without access to expensive medication, which she cannot afford, she will only have five years to live.
At 54 years old, this is not something Anne-Marie is happy to accept and she is in the process of lobbying the Federal Government to fight to get the drug added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
The diagnosis has been understandably difficult for Anne-Marie.
‘‘I was diagnosed three weeks ago,’’ she said.
‘‘It was a complicated time for me as I’d just finished a contract in one job and was about to start a new job at Benalla Health.
‘‘It was going to be a very demanding position, and when they told me what had happened, when my GP said to me you will have an appointment every day, I knew I would not be able to take it.’’
However, that turned out to be the least of her issues after she was informed that the only drug that could prolong her life, Palbociclib, was not available on the PBS.
The PBS lists all medicines available to be dispensed to patients at a government-subsidised price.
Without a government subsidy the cost is too high for Anne-Marie and many other women in her situation.
There is an alternative drug in development, Ribociclib, which is touted to be available in the next couple of years.
Part of the reason that Palbociclib was rejected by the PBS is that it is expensive, and Ribociclib should be a cheaper alternative when it is available.
However, it is not available now, so anyone in the same position as Anne-Marie has no option but to try and find $60000 per year, or wait until a time Ribociclib is available, a time that may be too late for them.
Anne-Marie is requesting that people write letters to their Federal Member asking them to fight to get Palbociclib added to the PBS.
The Breast Cancer Network of Australia (BCNA) have also been lobbying the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) for more than six months to get Palbociclib added to the PBS Schedule.
Earlier this year, BCNA ran a petition arguing for Palbociclib to be added to the PBS, which attracted more than 32000 signatures.
The BCNA has also met with decision makers, including a meeting at parliament house with Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt and a consumer hearing with members of PBAC.
During those meetings, BCNA emphasised the importance that women placed upon having affordable access to treatments that could help them live well and keep their cancer from spreading for as long as possible.
However, PBAC still declined to push for it to be added in their last round of discussions on June 30.
BCNA chief executive officer Christine Nolan said the petition had helped raise public awareness around the importance of this new class of drug.
‘‘We want to thank the more than 32000 Australians who signed the petition and helped us show major decision makers how important affordable access to Palbociclib and other CDK inhibitor drugs is to Australians,’’ Ms Nolan said. ‘‘While our petition has closed, this is not the end of our campaign.
‘‘We will continue to advocate for these drugs to be made available on the PBS.’’ Christine said.
●Anyone with a query about Palbociclib or other CDK inhibitor drugs can phone Breast Cancer Network Australia’s helpline on 1800500258 or visit www.bcna.org.au