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PBS Update

An eraser is used to erase a depiction of cancerous cells

As more treatments become available for melanoma equitable access to these treatments is paramount. All Australians deserve the very best healthcare and access to the best evidence based medicines available.

At the March meeting of the PBAC the reimbursement of Nivolumab (Opdivo) and ipilumimab (Yervoy) was considered. At this stage the company that produces these drugs, Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS), are still in discussions with the government and we will advise you of the outcome once we have any news.

From April 1 the combination treatment of Cotellic (cobimetinib) and Zelboraf (vemurafenib) will be available on the PBS for the treatment of BRAF V600 mutation positive unresectable stage III or IV melanoma. The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) noted that the combination has the same “health benefit” as the already available treatment combination of Tafinlar (dabrafenib) and Mekinist (trametinib). The difference in these combinations relates to the side effects and so for those that may not be able to tolerate the side effects of one, there is now an alternative option available. The most common side effect for Cotellic and Zelboraf is photosensitivity while the most common side effect for Tafinlar and Mekinist is fever. Patients can switch from one combination to the other if they have an intolerance to the BRAF inhibitor they are taking. The PBS restriction is described below and further information is available on the PBS website:

  • The condition must not have been treated previously with PBS subsidised therapy; OR
  • Patient must have developed intolerance to another BRAF inhibitor of a severity necessitating permanent treatment withdrawal.

As always, MPA maintains that all patients deserve access to the best evidence based treatments available.