From 1 July 2021, mesothelioma patients will receive some desperately needed financial relief with respect to the treatment available to them.
OPDIVO (nivolumab) and YERVOY (ipilimumab) will be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). These forms of treatment are known as “checkpoint inhibitors” which are immunotherapies that work together to help activate the immune system to recognise and attack cancer cells.
Until recently, these drugs would cost mesothelioma patients thousands of dollars, which not every patient could afford.
Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer that cannot be cured. The earliest sign of asbestos-related disease is often pleural effusion, which is a build up of extra fluid in the pleural cavity (the space between the two layers of pleura surrounding the lungs).
Mesothelioma is usually caused by exposure to asbestos and is a latent onset disease. It can often develop over 20 to 60 years without the patient knowing until they develop symptoms later in life.
There are many Australians who were exposed to asbestos many years ago through their work, time serving in the armed forces, performing or being present during renovations to their homes or workplaces or even through laundering the clothes of a family member who worked with asbestos products.
People who may have been exposed to asbestos at work include builders, plumbers, electricians, welders, asbestos miners, automotive industry workers and textile workers.
Mesothelioma symptoms can include shortness of breath, chest pain, chronic cough, fatigue, loss of appetite, fever and excessive sweating. It is a painful and debilitating form of cancer that affects 700 to 800 Australians every year.
Mesothelioma is not only debilitating to the patient, but also devastating to the families and loved ones of patients. Symptoms will often present themselves without any prior warning and can see patients deteriorate rapidly to the point of becoming bedridden within weeks to months from the date of diagnosis.
There is very limited relief or treatment that can be offered to mesothelioma patients. Again, the recent addition of OPDIVO and YERVOY which can extend the quality of life of mesothelioma patients is an important step towards offering some much needed support to patients.
Early intervention through treatment and support to mesothelioma patients is vital to giving a patient the best chance of prolonging their prognosis and improving quality of life after receiving a terminal diagnosis.
Prior to 1 July 2021, having to pay thousands of dollars for immunotherapy has placed significant strain on patients during what is already the most stressful time in their lives. This addition to the PBS is a milestone step and hopefully not the last in providing much needed support to mesothelioma sufferers.
This blog was written by Sean Ryan, Director
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