New cancer drugs to help extend life span now on PBS

NEW cancer drugs that can significantly extend the life of people diagnosed with deadly disease will soon become more affordable after being approved for inclusion in the Federal Government's Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

In clinical trials, more than 60 per cent of patients with advanced melanoma who were treated with drug ipilimumab were still alive after one year while at least 10% were still alive after five years.

Minister for Health Tanya Plibersek said drug was the first effective treatment in more than a decade and the inclusion of ipilimumab, sold as Yervoy on the PBS, would save patients more than $110,000 a year on average.

Australia has the highest skin cancer rate in the world, with one in 17 Australians at risk of contracting the disease.

Prostate cancer drug abitarerone and advanced breast cancer treatment vinorelbine also made the cut.

The new subsidies for the three cancer medicines are expected to cost the Australian Government more than $430million over four years.

"Cancer is the number one cause of sickness and death in this country and fighting it has always been a top priority for this government," Ms Plibersek said.

"With these new listings the Government has committed around $3.9 billion to improve the detection and treatment of cancer, including nearly $2 billion on subsidies for new cancer medicines since 2007.

This brings the number of new or amended listings subsidised for cancer treatment since 2007 to 36, for 17 different types of cancer."

More than a hundred thousand Australians will also benefit from the extension of PBS subsidies for a new generation oral anticoagulant medicine.Rivaroxaban - marketed as Xarelto - will soon be subsidised as a treatment for the prevention of stroke in patients with irregular heartbeat and treatment of blood clots in the lungs and legs.