New drug listed with PBS to help Australians with bone-marrow cancer

  • 02/19/2019

For thousands of Australians living with the incurable bone-marrow cancer Muliple Myeloma, life-prolonging medications are too expensive for many.


A new drug named Pomalyst will be listed this month on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, reducing the cost for patients by thousands of dollars.

The drug is a derivative of Thalidomide, a drug that caused thousands of birth defects in the 1950s and 1960s, but is now being used as a cancer treatment drug.

Previously Pomalyst cost thousands of dollars for each dose, but now the drug will be available for less than $50.

There are currently 1200 Australians diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma each year, an incurable disease often leaving sufferers in a great deal of pain.  

Multiple Myeloma is characterised by an accumulation of abnormal plasma cells in the bone-marrow which can cause; bone damage, nerve damage, renal impairment and immune deficiencies.

Haematologist at Melbourne’s Peter McCallum Cancer Centre, Professor Miles Prince, says Pomalyst is not a cure and not suitable for all Myeloma sufferers, but he considers the drug a game-changer for some patients.  

“They can go home and start taking the tablet, seeing immediate improvement in their symptoms and get a better quality of life,” Dr Prince said.

“It will specifically seek out the Myeloma and kill it so it’s a boost for the immune system and it’s not as toxic as things like chemotherapy,” he said.

Geoff Hoskings was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in 2008 and says the drug has helped him have a better quality of life.

“I still have fatigue, I’m susceptible to cracking a bone every now and again and my tolerance to infection is down. My immune system is not what it should be,” Mr Hoskings said.

“I’ve had three infections because of the Myeloma, and with my inability to fight it, I imagine [what would have happended] if I hadn’t been taking the drugs. Something worse would have happened.”

Mr Hoskings also took part on the drug trial of Pomalyst and says it will benefit him for some time to come.

“I’ve got four grandchildren and I want to see their 21st birthdays.”


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