Clinical Oncology Society of Australia

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Access to chemotherapy drugs

In recent months the Clinical Oncological Society of Australia (COSA) has been active in the issue surrounding the supply of chemotherapy drugs.

On 1 December 2012, docetaxel was subject to a PBS price reduction of 76.2%. Many pharmacies that provide chemotherapy have relied on the docetaxel PBS margin to cross-subsidise the costs of providing cancer pharmacy services. In the short-term, while negotiations with the Government continue, these costs have been absorbed, but this is not viable in the longer term, particularly with another round of PBS price reductions (including paclitaxel) on 1 April 2013.

In early 2013, the Senate called an inquiry into the access of chemotherapy drugs such as docetaxel, following concerns about the viability of cancer pharmacy services, particularly in the private sector.  COSA determined it was essential to make a submission to the inquiry outlining the wide ranging ramifications of the PBS price disclosure cuts. The COSA submission was well received and the data presented was of great interest to the committee.

Dan Mellor, Chair of the COSA Cancer Pharmacists Group, represented COSA as a witness at the inquiry hearing on 28 March in Sydney. The committee recommendations were published in May.

I would like to thank the submission working group, chaired by Dan Mellor, for producing a high quality document in a short amount of time: Christine Carrington, Rhonda DeSouza, Paul Grogan, Dorothy Keefe, Sue Kirsa, Jude Lees, Dan Mellor (Chair), Ian Olver, Christopher Steer and Ben Stevenson.

Annual Scientific Meeting

The 2013 ASM program in Adelaide will once again feature high quality presentations from national and international experts. Dr Harvey Jay Cohen from Duke and Professor Patricia Ganz from UCLA are just two of the invited international speakers – a full list of confirmed speakers and the draft program are available on the conference website www.cosa2013.org. The conference theme ‘Cancer Care Coming of Age’ will cover geriatric oncology and gastro-intestinal cancers.

One of the ASM highlights is the Presidential Lecture on the final day. We are pleased to announce that Professor Ian Maddocks has accepted our invitation to deliver the lecture. Professor Maddocks is an eminent palliative care specialist, who is recognised internationally for his work in palliative care, tropical and preventative medicine. Now Emeritus Professor at Flinders University, he continues daily care for the terminally ill. He was awarded Senior Australian of the Year in 2013.

Leadership in improving cancer research

COSA continues to work with the Cancer Cooperative Trials Groups to progress issues of common interest. Together, we convened a workshop in November 2012 – Long-term follow-up of clinical trial participants: Challenges and opportunities – to enable stakeholders to discuss the current limitations and opportunities to increase long-term follow-up of clinical trial participants.

Key issues identified from the workshop presentations and discussions were:

  • Need for long term outcome data
  • Potential of health record linkage
  • Embedding research in clinical practice
  • Supporting clinical research professionals

The workshop also resulted in an extensive list of recommendations for COSA and the trials groups, individually and collectively. The challenge will be to prioritise what is achievable in the short and long-term and by whom. COSA will continue to show leadership in this area and work with the trials groups and other organisations, to advocate for and implement the workshop recommendations.

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