Mepolizumab pen autoinjector now available on PBS for severe eosinophilic asthma

Patients with severe eosinophilic asthma now have access to PBS reimbursed mepolizumab (Nucala) pre-filled pen autoinjector to allow self-administration of the biologic at home.

From 1 June, a new PBS listing means that mepolizumab may be self-administered by autoinjector outside of clinic settings by the patient or administered by a caregiver if their healthcare professional determines that it is appropriate.

The move will give patients with severe eosinophilic asthma more choice and convenience for administration of the monthly injections, particularly at a time when COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns mean clinic access may be difficult, say respiratory specialists.

“Access to treatments and ease of use are always important issues, particularly for patients in regional and remote areas,” said Professor Peter Gibson a respiratory physician at John Hunter Hospital, NSW, and clinical researcher at the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI).

“However, at a time when Australians have been self-isolating and spending more time at home, this new at-home administration option is especially significant.

“It may help facilitate greater continuity of treatment and protect vulnerable patients as they will not necessarily have to visit a clinic to access their regular treatment.”

In December, Professor Peter Wark, a respiratory physician at Newcastle University NSW, told the limbic that the self-administration option for mepolizumab would be of particular benefit for rural residents who face significant barriers to accessing treatments.

Professor Wark said a recent study in 18-64 year old adults with severe asthma had shown that with training most patients were confident in being able to self administer the biologic treatment for severe eosinophilic asthma at home, and this was preferred by most over receiving treatment at a clinic.

“Clinicians, asthma organisations and patients will now need to consider how best to incorporate this into the care of people with severe asthma,” he said.

However he acknowledged that the at-home option would create challenges in terms of monitoring adherence to treatment, particularly given the cost of the biologics in asthma.

The autoinjector reimbursement was also welcomed Asthma Australia CEO Michele Goldman.

“Frequent visits to a healthcare professional to administer treatment are an added challenge for these patients. Innovations around self-treatment options may contribute towards helping patients with severe eosinophilic asthma reduce the burden of treatment on their lives and the overall burden on the healthcare system,” she said.

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