WHEN dietitian Nathalie Cook discovered she
had a rare blood cancer almost a decade ago, the devastating diagnosis came as
The busy mum had ignored a series of
insignificant and seemingly unrelated symptoms such as headaches, itchy skin
and burning hands and feet, until one day her vision went blurry and she called
Nathalie, 54, would have been be forgiven
for choosing to cut back at work to spend more time with her family and
friends, but instead she began a decade-long campaign for subsidised cancer
treatments for people suffering from rare and often deadly cancers such as
myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN).
Today, Ms Cook will join Health Minister
Greg Hunt who will announce a $250 million package to subsidise four
life-changing cancer medicines, in what is believed to be the first
consumer-instigated drug listing in Australia.
The decision will save thousands of
patients up to $130,000 a year when the drugs are listed on the pharmaceutical
benefits scheme from August 1.
For the past 10-years Ms Cook has travelled
the world to global health conferences, lobbied politicians and harassed drug
companies for access to the life-changing drug Pegasys.
In 2013 she was offered the drug, which can
cost more than $18,000 per year, on compassionate grounds but it didn’t stop
her campaigning on behalf of those who no longer could.
“Immediately my quality of life improved and
my hair grew back,” she said.
“I decided I wasn’t going to give up, I
felt I was in a position to do what I could to help others.
“For me, it became a challenge and helping
people access this drug made me feel that some good could come of my diagnosis.
“As a community healthcare worker it’s in
my DNA to want to help people.”
Ms Cook told The Sunday Telegraph the
listing would change the lives of the 1125 patients with rare types of
leukaemia cancers, including myeloproliferative neoplasms, who would otherwise
pay more than $18,000 per year for the medications.
Almost 1000 patients with a type of head
and neck cancer, squamous cell carcinoma, who would otherwise pay almost
$50,000 per year for Opdivo will pay a maximum of $39.50 per script or just $6.40
per script for concessional patients.
Around 220 patients with a rare type of
lymphoma cancer — relapsed or refractory mantle cell lymphoma — who would
otherwise pay $134,000 for Imbruvica, will also have discounted access from
And more than 1500 patients who are
receiving chemotherapy for cancer treatment will have cheaper access to
Neulasta which helps the body to make new white blood cells.
Mr Hunt said strong economic management
meant the Turnbull Government was able to provide Australian patients with
access to lifesaving and life-changing medicines quicker than ever before.
“We are now making on average one new PBS
listing every single day,” Mr Hunt said.
“Since coming into Government, the
Coalition has helped improve the health of Australians by subsidising more than
$9 billion worth of new medicines.”
Nathalie Cook has battled a rare blood cancer for nearly 10 years.
The original version of this article appeared here.