Calls for key cancer drug to be subsidised more widely


It’s called ‘keytruda’ and the drug has saved lives and given hope to cancer victims, all around Australia. The only catch, when it’s not subsidised, every dose costs thousands of dollars.

Sophia Wray reports.

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People are calling it the ‘miracle drug’.

Dr Victoria Atkinson, Oncologist, PA Hospital: “Keytruda for melanoma has a 35-40% chance of causing shrinkage, a 30% chance of stopping tumours from growing, and about a 30% chance it won’t benefit the patient at all.”

Dr Atkinson’s been studying the effectiveness of Keytruda for years.

The problem is, it’s only subsidised for melanoma.

Paul Bosworth has Mesothelioma.

It’s an asbestos-related cancer, lesser known than Melanomia, but equally aggressive and lethal.

He’s just started taking Keytruda.

Paul Bosworth, Mesothelioma victim: “I’ve only had two, but already I’m noticing magic sort of things with myself.”

Each dose costs Paul $5000.

A huge difference to the six dollars, melanoma patients pay for the same drug.

Paul Bosworth, Mesothelioma victim: “I want to see grandchildren and things like that so I’ve got to get through this, I am going to get through this, with the help of Keytruda.”

The battle is ongoing.

Paul’s family have started online fundraising to help pay for the drug, and petitions, to have it put on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

Tania Bosworth, Daughter: “There just needs to be a point where someone says right well clearly we’re having success here so how are we going to manage that.”

In a statement, Cancer Council Australia says Australia’s PBS has served the nation well, but its criteria for approving and listing cancer drugs has not kept pace with changes in the science.

Royal Brisbane Hospital is currently running clinical trials for Keytruda.

Sophia Wray, QUT News.