Bristol-Myers Squibb ceases free melanoma drug
NEW patients commenced on Yervoy (ipilimumab, Bristol-Myers Squibb) for metastatic melanoma face a six-figure outlay as the sponsor has withdrawn free supply in the wake of rejection for PBS funding.
Current and former patients are exempt from the $29,600 charge for each of four infusions for the duration of their treatment but those not previously registered who start therapy on or after 16 April 2012 will have to pay the full amount out of their own pocket.
A spokesperson for Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) said a trial would start soon in nine oncology centres across Australia comparing doses, and although it will be free to patients in the trial, candidates had to meet the correct criteria.
Indicated for treatment of patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma who have failed or are intolerant to prior therapy, it is the only approved treatment in Australia shown to improve overall survival, the spokesperson said.
BMS has provided Yervoy free to more than 600 patients since May 2010 while it sought PBS subsidy and was very disappointed that the PBAC had decided not to recommend listing at its meetings in July 2011 and March 2012. The company would meet the chair of the PBAC to consider its next steps, she said.
The cost, equivalent to that in Europe and the USA, reflected 10 years of research and development, the spokesperson said.
Some 25% of melanoma patients progress to advanced disease, she said.