New treatment for severe asthma to hit PBS in 2017

A NEW treatment for severe asthma is set to hit the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) as of January 1, 2017.

The new treatment, Mepolizumab, known as Nucala, will be reimbursed on the PBS for eligible Australian patients with severe refractory eosinophilic asthma as an add-on to their existing asthma therapy.

Nucala is the first treatment approved for this specific type of severe asthma.

More than 2.4 million Australians are affected by asthma it is thought that roughly 5-10% suffer from severe asthma.

Nearly 40% of adults with severe asthma are hospitalised at least once a year for the treatment of a flare-up. 23% of adolescents and adults have had a brush with death because of their asthma.

The type of asthma Nucala is said to treat, severe eosinophilic asthma, is where there are too many eosinophils, a type of white blood cell, in the blood and lungs. Estimates say around 30% of those with severe asthma have this type. 

Respiratory specialist and Director at Monash Lung and Sleep, Professor Phil Bardin, said he welcomes the availability of a new add-on treatment option on the PBS for eligible patients with severe eosinophilic asthma, who continue to have symptoms and flare-ups, despite being on maximal asthma therapy.

"Patients with severe refractory eosinophilic asthma do not have typical asthma. It can be a struggle to control their day-to-day symptoms despite maximal doses of prescribed medications." 

"Many patients continue to have frequent asthma flare-ups, which may require hospitalisation, and can have a severe negative impact on their quality of life.

"It's a big step forward to be able to offer a treatment specifically developed for this disease type."

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