Anti-cancer drug Ribomustin added to PBS

A form of Ribomustin was first developed in East Germany in the 1960s when access to western treatments was limited.


It has just been approved for Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

The drug significantly prolongs the quality and expectancy of life for patients diagnosed with some forms of lymphoma.

Joan Culell, 78, was first diagnosed with slow-growing lymphoma in 2012.

She told SBS News she knew the potential problems associated with existing treatments.

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“I wouldn’t look forward to living in a wheelchair and having to be cared for,” she said.

“Being independent and able to look after myself – that’s one of my big desires.”

Ms Culell agreed to join a trial of the drug Ribomustin.

Haemotologist at Melbourne’s Monash Medical Centre, Stephen Opat, told SBS News the intravenous treatment was developed to more efficiently target the blood-cancer and reduce side effects including hair-loss, mouth ulcers and infection.

“The average time [to get] the disease was under control was 70 months, versus about 30 months for the standard therapy, so better tolerated with less side effects,” Dr Opat said.

Cancer Council Victoria chairman Andrew Roberts said the outcome was a step forward, but more trials were needed to combat variants of the increasingly common form of cancer.

“It would be great if we had the opportunity to trial a significant number of these here in Australia so needy Australian patients have the benefit of early access to these drugs,” Professor Roberts said.

Adding Ribomustin to the PBS will provide an alternative treatment for about 30,000 Australians living with some forms of slow-growing lymphoma.

For Ms Culell, a decision participate in the trial has given her more time with her beloved six grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

“I feel great that I can enjoy my great grandchildren, it’s wonderful – I really love it,” she said.

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