On Wednesday 20 November the Federal Health Minister announced that three times as many lung cancer patients will be eligible to receive the immunotherapy drug Keytruda via the PBS.
People with advanced non-small cell lung cancer can be treated with a combination of Keytruda and chemotherapy that has been holding promise for many patients.
Before today, access to the drug was limited to patients who expressed a genetic marker – PD-1. Now, regardless of whether they have the genetic marker, they will have affordable access to the drug combination.
This is welcome news for patients like Tony Blain. Tony was was diagnosed with stage four non-small cell lung cancer in May 2019.
The 63-year-old from Sydney went to the doctor complaining of a pain in his ribs. After a series of tests, he was told that he had just 30 days to live. Tony recalls the first weeks without treatment as some of the darkest in his life – unable to sleep or sit due to the pain of tumours lodged throughout his body.
Tony and his wife Jamie immediately began organizing his affairs, fearing the worst. His priority, despite the news, was to be able to fly from Sydney to New York to walk his daughter Molly down the aisle.
Tony was told by doctors at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse that the combination of Keytruda and chemotherapy could cost up to $8,000 per session.
Tony paid for one treatment cycle and was then enrolled in a familiarisation program introduced by MSD to make the therapy available at no cost for eligible patients.
Tony has had a life-long passion for motorcycles and feared his intense cancer battle would mean he’d have to give it all up. Since receiving treatment, Tony has been able to get back on his beloved Harley Davidson to ride with his mates again and travel overseas to walk his daughter down the aisle. Tony says without the incredible care he has received he would not be around to enjoy these milestones.
He is on the board of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America, Australia Inc. Before his cancer diagnosis, he was president.
He loves classic rock and still volunteers every Friday from 4-6 pm hosting a community radio show on 2SSR. He is passionate about music and wants to ensure a new generation of listeners appreciate Pink Floyd, The Velvet Underground, Joy Division and more.