Leukaemia patients say the listing of an expensive drug on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme will save lives. Until now, most patients haven’t been able to afford it, now it’s boosted their chances of survival.

Zak Adkins reports.

TRANSCRIPT

Brisbane man Garry Heidke has been living with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia for 19 years.

He says the creation of the drug Imbruvica has given him new hope.

Garry Heidke, Leukaemia patient:”That has worked incredibly well for me. I’ve gone on living a normal life. I got to work, I’ve got my pilot’s license in that time and a number of other things, so yeah, life goes on, thankfully.”

Around 1,500 Australians are diagnosed with this most common form of leukaemia each year.

Until now, Imbruvica has been beyond the financial reach of most.

A few lucky ones have had access through medical trials, but it’s about to benefit everyone.

Dr Andrew Nicol, Haematologist: “So the fact that they go from an alternative of having chemotherapy which is very intrusive in their lifestyle. they generally can’t work all the way through, to a drug where people lead a completely normal life. That in itself is an incredible change.”

Until December 1, Imbruvica will cost $10,000 per month, but soon the price will plunge to just $36 per script.

Imbruvica is taken as a tablet, if and when chemotherapy is ineffective.

Dr Andrew Nicol, Haematologist: “No drug is completely free of side affects but in our experience with all the people we have on these drugs, they lead a normal life.”

Garry Heidke, Leukaemia patient: “I found out Ibrutinib was an option and that was a huge relief and particularly the side effects are minimal if any.”

A positive step for leukaemia patients.

Zak Adkins, QUT News.