News in brief: Bevacizumab PBS access changes; Medicinal cannabis trial for children with advanced cancer; New opioid criteria for palliative care patients;

Bevacizumab biosimilar gains unrestricted PBS listing

The biologic bevacizumab will be available on the PBS as a biosimilar and as an unrestricted benefit from 1 June 2021 to treat cancers such as colorectal, lung, cervical, and ovarian cancer

The PBS listing criteria have been changed from Streamlined to Unrestricted on the recommendation of the PBAC, which said this  would allow access to combination treatment with atezolizumab

At the same time, bevacizumab will be available only as Mvasi a biosimilar brand, while the reference brand, Avastin will no longer be available on the PBS.

Medicinal cannabis trial for children with advanced cancer

Children with advanced cancers are to receive medicinal cannabis as part of a three-year trial expected to start this year.

Led by Adjunct Associate Professor Anthony Herbert, director of Children’s Health Queensland’s Paediatric Palliative Care Service, the trial will compare different combinations and ratios of cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to determine which is preferrable in reducing symptoms.

Researchers will measure symptom scores for appetite, lack of energy, pain, drowsiness, nausea and vomiting. They will also measure sleep and activity using actigraphy, quality of life scores, and also anxiety and depression scores.

“The clinical trial will be a win-win because patients will have access to the medicine, but clinicians will also have the opportunity to observe the impacts of medicinal cannabis in a structured and controlled way to see if it has benefits without causing side effects such as drowsiness, or potentially even making symptoms worse,” said Associate Professor Herbert.

The research is a collaboration between Queensland University of Technology, the University of Queensland, University of Sydney, Children’s Health Queensland, Queensland Children’s Hospital, Royal Children’s Hospital and Monash Medical Centre, Melbourne, and John Hunter Children’s Hospital, Newcastle.

Opioid access improved for palliative care patients

Changes to the Palliative Care Schedule (PCS) from 1 June 2021 will reduce eligibility requirements to improve access to opioid medications for palliative care patients with severe disabling pain. The changes provide access to additional formulations of fentanyl, hydromorphone, methadone and morphine and new listings for oxycodone and oxycodone with naloxone modified release products. The  criteria restricting use for palliative care patients undergoing cancer treatments, and requirements for annual review of opioid use have been removed.

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