Today, VIVA! partnered with Celgene, a Bristol-Myers Squibb company, Multiple Myeloma Australia and Multiple Myeloma New Zealand to announce a newly reimbursed treatment option for Australians and New Zealanders living with incurable blood cancer, multiple myeloma.

REVLIMID® (lenalidomide) – the first and only maintenance treatment in ANZ specifically indicated and reimbursed for those with newly diagnosed multiple myeloma (NDMM) who have undergone an autologous stem cell transplant (ASCT) – will be subsidised through Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and New Zealand’s Pharmac from today – April 1, 2020

Not to be confused with the skin cancer, melanoma, multiple myeloma is an incurable blood cancer that develops from plasma cells, a type of white blood cell found in the bone marrow and affects more than 18,000 Australians and 2,500 New Zealanders.

Due to the incurable nature of myeloma, the fear of relapse can carry a high emotional burden for patients, even during periods of remission. With studies revealing more than half (52%) of those living with multiple myeloma experience symptoms of anxiety or depression, widening access to treatment and extending time spent in remission may help to improve psychological wellbeing.

The listing coincided with an article published in MJA InSight highlighting that timely access to affordable therapies has been an ongoing struggle for the multiple myeloma community.

According to article author, Professor Miles Prince, Clinical Haematologist and Director of Cancer Immunology and Molecular Oncology (Epworth Healthcare, Melbourne), continuing to broaden access to multiple myeloma treatments is critical to improving patient quality of life.

“Currently, people living with myeloma have a median survival rate of more than seven years which is significant in comparison to the median survival rate of just three years in the early 2000s.

“For survival rates to continue to improve however, patients must receive timely access to the most effective treatments,” said Prof Prince.

“The PBS listing of maintenance for multiple myeloma will provide newly diagnosed patients with an additional treatment option for their disease.”

The article also discusses that the typical journey of a patient with myeloma, who is usually of advanced age, is one of response, remission and relapse and that timely access to effective treatment needs to be prioritised at each stage of the disease.

Prof Prince believes the outlook appears promising for future myeloma patients as new treatment options emerge.