New immunotherapy PBS listed for advanced melanoma

Skin cancers

By Geir O'Rourke

7 Feb 2024

Patients with advanced melanoma have a new subsidised immunotherapy option, following the addition of relatlimab and nivolumab (Opdualag) on the PBS.

The 1 February listing, which follows a positive recommendation from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee last July, has already been endorsed by Melanoma Institute Australia co-medical director Professor Georgina Long.

Eligibility is expected to include about 940 patients annually with unresectable Stage III or Stage IV malignant melanoma who have not have received prior treatment with ipilimumab or a PD-1.

Other criteria include:

  • Patient must be at least 12 years of age and weighing 40kg or more
  • Have an Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) performance status of 0 or 1
  • Not have uveal melanoma

Finally, the patient must not have experienced disease progression whilst on adjuvant PD-1 inhibitor treatment or disease recurrence within 6 months of completion of adjuvant PD-1 inhibitor treatment if treated for resected Stage IIIB, IIIC, IIID or IV melanoma, the PBS criteria state.

In a statement for the MIA, Professor Long said the listing was an important development but more needed to be done.

“While prevention is paramount in reducing the incidence of melanoma, those who develop advanced or metastatic melanoma should have access to all treatments that have demonstrated benefit in robust clinical trials,” she said.

Health Minister Mark Butler noted that without the subsidy, patients could expect to pay up to $315,000 per course of treatment.

“Now this latest cutting-edge immunotherapy treatment Opdualag will be available for patients who have melanoma that is not able to be removed surgically or has become metastatic,” he told reporters.

This will give new hope to almost a thousand Australians each year and add a new tool to the growing toolbox of treatments for Australia’s national cancer.”

“With cheaper medicines we are supporting millions of Australians with chronic, ongoing conditions so they don’t have to choose between health care and paying the bills.”

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