It is an incredible shame on our system that Australian doctors have considered setting up their own version of a ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ to treat their patients.
For those not familiar with the reference of the Academy Award winning movie, the plot centres around a true story of an illegal back-market pharmaceuticals chain, where banned HIV drugs were smuggled into Texas in the mid 1980’s to save the lives of those who had acquired HIV/AIDS.
In this case, doctors are desperate to bring a discounted version of the drug Sofosbuvir, which has been declined admission to the Australian Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme by it’s committee due to its cost, into Australia to treat patients who can’t wait a year for the committee to review their decision.
“I am seeing on the blood tests absolute flashing red lights that are telling me that this patient is going to do badly in the next year. They don’t even know it yet. They still feel OK. Then over the year they will become jaundiced, go yellow, they will develop fluid in their belly, they may develop liver cancer. It’s terrible. Those people need to be rescued. They are clinging on to the edge.”
Dr Miriam Levy, the director of gastroenterology at Sydney’s Liverpool Hospital
Australia is the only country in the developed world that has not agreed to subsidise the treatment by placing it on the PBS. At a cost of $70,000 per course, the drug is well out of range for most people living with Hep C to fund themselves.
The decision to hold out does not make much sense, as not only would patients with Hep C risk developing liver cancer if left untreated, costing millions to treat with cancer drugs or liver transplants, but the drug has a cure rate of 90%! Preventing escalating health complications in just one patient by treating them now, will save the patient, the healthcare system, and lower transmission rates!
With such a cure rate and such benefits to treating patients early, the decision to not allow Sofosbuvir onto the PBS seems dumb, if not down right mean-hearted.
Perhaps, with this sort of decision-making, there will be a ‘Sydney Buyers Club’ operating here soon enough.