Good “Down Under” News for Our Mates Down Under
The approval of Zytiga (abiraterone) in Australia is good news for our Aussie brothers with advanced disease.
Emails, satellites, phone calls cross our globe at astounding speed. Even the pace of snail mail is pretty impressive considering one no longer has to paste Air Mail stickers on overseas letters. That said, the disparity in the time it takes between countries to get drugs approved for patients who need them is a bit confounding. It was approved in the U.S. in April 2011, in Canada last July and in the European Union in September. But I am not here to dwell on that.
It’s time to raise a cheer for the fact that Australian men who are afflicted by advanced disease–resistant to both hormone and chemo-therapies–can now possibly be helped by the availability of Zytiga. The statistics for this disease, based on percentage of male populations, are roughly similar to those of the U.S. with the number of annual deaths in Australia being slightly higher as a percentage:
- Each year in Australia, close to 3,300 men die of prostate cancer (28,000 in the U.S.) - equal to the number of women who die from breast cancer annually. Around 20,000 new cases are diagnosed in Australia every year (242,000 in the U.S.)
- Each day about 32 men learn news that they have prostate cancer – tragically one man every three hours will lose his battle against this insidious disease
- One in 9 men in Australia will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime
There is, however, one final hurdle: the drug’s manufacturer, Janssen, is working with the Australian government to add the therapy to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) to be subsidised in the country. If the situation is anything similar to what happened in the U.K. with the initial rejection of reimbursement by NICE, it may take a bit longer before all patients can gain access. Hopefully, the lessons learned in the U.K. will guide the Australian discussions.