Health minister Greg Hunt says a cancer drug now on the PBS will save patients thousands of dollars. Image by Ellen Smith/AAP PHOTOS

Health

Blood cancer treatment added to PBS

2020-04-02 10:22:20

Nearly a decade after doctors told him he had up to six years to live, Ian Fox’s blood cancer is in remission.

He was part of an early trial of Revlimid, one of a handful of drugs added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme on Wednesday.

“It was a bit scary because right from the start they said, ‘Look, there’s not a cure for this’,” the 65-year-old told AAP.

He was placed on a trial for the drug in 2012 after he got stem cell treatment and he’s happy he could help researchers, with doctors telling him the cancer was in remission in 2015.

“I’m rapt … I’m on a maintenance program now, still taking a minimum dose,” he said.

Before his diagnosis, Mr Fox noticed cooking smells were making him nauseous. 

But it wasn’t until he donated blood that he was referred to a GP, with doctors finally diagnosing him with myeloma.

Mr Fox said he couldn’t have gotten through the past 10 years without his wife Lesley and his kids Cameron and Maddy.

Now the retired web designer is working on his vintage cars, having had to give up his motorcycle collection due to peripheral neuropathy in his feet – damage to the nerve cells that carry messages to and from the brain and spinal cord – a side-effect of myeloma treatment.

“That’s why I’m sort of directing my energies into the classic cars, because they’re a bit more stable,” Mr Fox said.

Revlimid targets blood cancer cells while boosting the immune system.

Its addition to the PBS is expected to save Australians $194,000 in out-of-pocket costs over the course of their treatment.

More than 1000 people each year are expected to benefit from the change, with about 18,000 Australians living with myeloma.

The government has also added Kadcyla, a breast cancer treatment; Symtuza, a treatment for people living with HIV; and Briviact, an epilepsy drug.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the drugs would give patients a better quality of life and boost their chances of recovery.