Self-injecting pen for asthma drug gets PBS support

Jun 1 2020

Conjoint Professor Peter Gibson

A new pre-filled, auto-injecting pen will allow patients with severe eosinophilic asthma to self-administer a drug known as NUCALA (Mepolizumab), with Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) reimbursement from 1 June 2020

Announced by pharmaceutical company GSK Australia, the pen is a disposable, spring-loaded medical device designed to deliver a specific dose of a medicine. Patients can now choose whether they receive treatment via a healthcare professional or at home if they’re unable to travel or attend a clinic to receive monthly treatment.

Severe eosinophilic asthma is a subtype of severe asthma, where there are too many eosinophils (a type of white blood cell) in the blood and lungs, causing inflammation and an increased risk of asthma flare-ups. NUCALA works by reducing the number of these eosinophils and is given in addition to a patient’s regular preventer and symptom-controller medications.

According to Professor Peter Gibson, a respiratory physician at John Hunter Hospital and clinical researcher at the University of Newcastle and HMRI, access to new self-administration options for severe eosinophilic asthma is a timely and positive development for Australian patients.

“Ensuring flexible treatment options for Australians living with severe eosinophilic asthma is an important step in reducing the burden of this disease,” said Professor Gibson.

“Access to treatments and ease of use are always important issues, particularly for patients in regional and remote areas. However, at a time when Australians have been self-isolating and spending more time at home, this new at-home administration option is especially significant.

“It may help facilitate greater continuity of treatment and protect vulnerable patients as they will not necessarily have to visit a clinic to access their regular treatment.”

Michele Goldman, CEO of Asthma Australia, said the reimbursement represents a step forward in reducing the burden of severe asthma on patients, their families and the healthcare system.

“Frequent visits to a healthcare professional to administer treatment are an added challenge for these patients. Innovations around self-treatment options may contribute towards helping patients with severe eosinophilic asthma reduce the burden of treatment on their lives and the overall burden on the healthcare system,” Ms Goldman said.

Dr Andrew Weekes, Medical Director at GSK Australia, said that this PBS listing is an important milestone for patients with severe eosinophilic asthma, enabling them to exercise more flexibility around how they receive their biologic treatment.

“GSK is pleased that Australians with severe eosinophilic asthma can now access a self- administration option for NUCALA via the PBS. The availability of the pre-filled pen will give patients greater choice around how they receive their biologic treatment and consider the setting that best fits their needs, in consultation with their healthcare professional,” said Dr Weekes.

NUCALA was the first treatment reimbursed for severe eosinophilic asthma in Australia in 2017 on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.