Medicines

Oncology drugs among most costly to government


Two oncology drugs are among the most costly to the PBS, with biologicals costing hundreds of millions dominating the list of therapies on the $13 billion a year subsidy scheme

The PD-1 inhibitor immunotherapy nivolumab (Opdiva) is ranked second  in the 2020 top 10 list of most costly drugs to government, with an annual outlay of $344,751,398  according to Australian Prescriber.

The drug, which is PBS listed for the treatment of several cancers including melanoma lung cancer and renal cancer had 51,882 prescriptions for the period July 2019 – June 2020.

In third place is pembrolizumab (Keytruda), which came at a cost to government of $342,875,272  for 38,860 prescriptions for treating a range of cancer including melanoma, lung and urothelial cancers..

The most costly drug for the PBS budget was aflibercept (Eyelea, $392,045,570) for age related macular degeneration, which was accompanied in the top 10 list by AMD drug ranibizumab (Lucentis, $218,085,968).

Other costly treatments included immunotherapies such as adalimumab (Humira, for rheumatoid arthritis) at $320,969,041 and ustekinumab (Stelara, for Crohn’s disease and psoriatic arthritis) at $ 211,250,971.

The most widely prescribed drugs on the PBS by volume included rosuvastatin (13 million), pantoprazole (8.3 million) and cefalexin (5.3 million).

The total cost of the PBS was $12.7 billion, or 15.5% of total health spending.

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