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Who pays for Keytruda treatment for sufferers of mesothelioma?

Keytruda is an immunotherapy drug treatment that has shown some preliminary success in treating mesothelioma in Phase 2 clinical trials.

The Therapeutics Goods Administration (TGA) has approved Keytruda for use in melonama treatment but not yet for use in treating mesothelioma. The manufacturer has however made Keytruda available for sufferers of mesothelioma who have undergone unsuccessful chemotherapy treatment.

It follows that Keytruda treatment is only funded by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) for treatment of melanoma. This means mesothelioma sufferers patients have to meet the full costs of the treatment. Keytruda costs about $9,000.00 per course. Most patients receive at least six courses with treatment continuing if it is successful in slowing the growth of or shrinking the tumour. At present the manufacturer is discounting the cost of treatment by 30%. None the less, the cost remains significant.

The Dust Diseases Authority (DDA) has, to date, paid the costs of the treatment for sufferers of mesothelioma who have received an award from the DDA. Awards from the DDA are available to persons who contract mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos dust and fibre while employed in New South Wales. Awards from the DDA cover all of hospital, medical and pharmaceutical expenses. The DDA established an advisory panel of oncologists who have recommended the DDA pay the cost of Keytruda treatments following unsuccessful chemotherapy if recommended by the treating oncologist.

However, the cost of Keytruda for other sufferers of mesothelioma, such as those exposed outside New South Wales, or in the course of home renovation, is more complex. A claim may be made for the cost of Keytruda treatment as part of a common law claim for damages. Since 2016, the courts have generally included an amount as part of awards to cover the cost of Keytruda treatment for those exposed outside of NSW or outside the scope of employment.

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