PBS access to ibrutinib expanded to Mantle Cell Lymphoma

Ibrutinib (Imbruvica) has been listed on the PBS from August 1 for relapsed or refractory mantle cell lymphoma (MCL).

The listing expands reimbursed access to the Bruton’s tyrosine kinase inhibitor beyond refractory chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) and small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL).

It will also spare patients the high cost of $134,000 per year for a typically aggressive disease.

When the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) approved the PBS listing application for ibrutinib in MCL in March 2018 it noted this was an area of high clinical need for the 1000 patients living with the disease in Australia.

“In relapsed/refractory MCL ibrutinib provides, for some patients, a significant improvement in efficacy over R-CHOP and a reduction in toxicity versus active treatment with R-CHOP,” it concluded.

Associate Professor Constantine Tam, Disease Group Lead in Low Grade Lymphoma & CLL at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and Director of Haematology at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, welcomed improved access to the drug.

In a statement released by manufacturer from Janssen, Professor Tam said mantle cell lymphoma was typically diagnosed at an advanced stage and that even if remission was achieved with chemotherapy, the vast majority of patients would relapse. Average survival from relapse was one to two years, he said.

“Until now, there has been no globally recognised standard of care for these patients. Imbruvica is the first agent to show a significant clinical benefit and become available on the PBS for patients with relapsed or refractory MCL,” he said.

The initiative is part of a $250 million funding package for cancer medicines from the Federal Government.

From 1 August the PBS will also list pegfilgrastim (Neulasta) and peginterferon alfa-2A (Pegasys) to support patients during chemotherapy.

Federal minister for Health Greg Hunt also announced the 1 August PBS listing of nivolumab (Opdivo) for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. Almost 1,000 patients would otherwise pay about $50,000 per year for the immunotherapy, he said.

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