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6 Key Breast Cancer Drugs Now More Affordable Thanks to 60-day Prescribing

Breast Cancer Network Australia

Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) welcomes six common drugs used to treat breast cancer being able to be prescribed and dispensed for 60-days with a single prescription. 

The drugs include common types of hormone blocking therapies such letrozole, anastrozole and tamoxifen, amongst others, which combined represented almost one million individual prescriptions in the 2023 calendar year. 

These drugs are included in the second tranche of over 300 medicines that have moved to 60-day prescribing since it was announced in September last year. 

The six hormone blocking drugs are used to treat hormone receptor positive breast cancer. Hormone blocking therapy, also called endocrine therapy, works by blocking hormones that can cause cancer to grow or to come back. Around two thirds of all breast cancer diagnoses are hormone-receptor positive.

BCNA Director Policy, Advocacy & Support Services Vicki Durston said allowing these vital drugs to be prescribed for 60-days at a time could save consumers hundreds of dollars. 

“It is especially important that we work to reduce the cost of hormone blocking therapies for breast cancer as some are required for ten years or more after active treatment finishes,” Ms Durston said. 

Jodi Steel, a BCNA Consumer Representative who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016, has been using hormone blocking therapies including tamoxifen and exemestane for seven years.  

“Sixty-day prescriptions essentially halves the cost of this treatment for me, which people like me with breast cancer need to take for a long period of time, to reduce the risk of our breast cancers recurring or progressing.

“This will also help alleviate other ongoing costs, such as reducing the number of GP visits we require, and saving time spent refilling prescriptions,” Ms Steel said. 

In its 2017 report on the financial impacts of breast cancer, BCNA reported average out-of-pocket cost relating to breast cancer at around $5,000, but with some as high as $21,000. 

These figures do not include additional costs such as lost income, follow-up procedures, or paying for un-subsidised treatments. The situation for Australians with breast cancer is further exacerbated by the cost-of-living crisis.  

“Reducing the ongoing cost of these drugs is one way we can start to address financial toxicity and improve equity, especially for those in lower socioeconomic groups who already experience disparities in access to breast cancer care,” Ms Durston said.  

Last year, BCNA advocated strongly in support of 60-day prescribing alongside other groups such as the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. 

Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) is Australia’s leading breast cancer consumer organisation. BCNA provides information and support to those diagnosed and their supporters, opportunities to connect with others going through a similar situation and work to influence a stronger healthcare system to ensure all Australians affected by breast cancer receive the very best care, treatment and support.

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