Federal Government slammed for robbing bowel cancer patients 06-Jun-2011
Screening should not be at expense of treatments
The Federal Government has cynically used bowel cancer patients to justify cutbacks to new medicines on the PBS, according to leading experts at the start of Bowel Cancer Awareness Week.
The Gut Foundation has attacked the Government for claiming ongoing cutbacks to the PBS were needed in order to restore a National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.
The screening program, which had been allowed to lapse, was allocated renewed funding in the federal budget after intense lobbying from a range of health groups.
But President of The Gut Foundation Prof Terry Bolin will tell a luncheon of business leaders today that two new approved treatments for bowel cancer are among a range of medicines now being withheld from the PBS.
“We have a situation of extreme concern where the government has finally agreed to restore the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program but has blocked access to new treatments including two of the latest drug indications for bowel cancer,” said Prof Bolin.
Erbitux for patients with metastatic colorectal cancer (for patients with advanced KRAS wild type bowel cancer) and Xeloda for treatment of stage III Dukes C colon cancer are approved and have been deemed cost effective by the government’s expert advisory group (the PBAC) but have been put on indefinite hold for listing on the PBS.
Prof Bolin said, “Research released last week shows bowel cancer is increasing at alarming rates in young people and it’s time we got it right in terms of both prevention and treatment. Australia has a very poor record on this health issue. Tragically, we are one of the world leaders in mortality rates with the disease claiming more than 4,100 lives every year.
“We need to see the government recognise the threat that bowel cancer presents in the same way that mental health has been elevated on the national agenda.
“I welcome the budget decision to restore FOBT (faecal occult blood testing) screening but we must ensure the program is extended to a broader range of age groups and supported by proper education and access to colonoscopy for follow-up. Access to the latest drug treatment options is vital for patients and the doctors treating them,” Prof Bolin said.
ABOUT Bowel Cancer
- It claims more than 4,100 Australian lives every year, with more than 17,000 Australians diagnosed per annum
- It kills almost as many women as breast cancer and men as prostate cancer
- Awareness of bowel cancer screening is half that of breast screening
- 84% of Australians want bowel screening program expanded
- Only one in four Australians aware of deadly risk of bowel cancer
Bowel Cancer Awareness Week runs from 5-11 June 2011