Cheap new drug for eczema sufferers

Liz HobdayAAP
Dupixent is injected once a fortnight to treat severe eczema, which causes red and itchy skin.
Camera IconDupixent is injected once a fortnight to treat severe eczema, which causes red and itchy skin.

Australians suffering from severe eczema will be given cheap access to a new medicine.

About 100,000 Australians suffer from the chronic skin condition, which causes red and itchy skin and sometimes infections.

The federal government announced on Saturday it will spend $270 million to list the drug Dupixent on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme.

Without the subsidy, a Dupixent prescription would probably cost about $22,800 a year.

The PBS listing reduces the cost to $41.30 per prescription, or $6.60 for concession card holders.

Dupixent will be made available cheaply from next week for people aged 12 and over whose skin condition can't be controlled by the usual eczema treatments.

Treatment of severe forms of eczema usually relies on corticosteroid creams, or broad-based immunosuppressant drugs that can come with many side effects and cannot be used long term.

But for many eczema sufferers, these treatments don't work.

The new medicine stops the body's immune system from overreacting and producing the extra inflammation that causes eczema.

The drug is injected once a fortnight for a lifetime.

The managing director of Eczema Support Australia Melanie Funk says access to the new drug will be life-changing for thousands of people.

"There will be tears of relief that this breakthrough medicine is now available for Australians with severe eczema, regardless of their ability to pay," she said.

Ms Funk is the mother of 11-year-old twins who suffer from a severe form of the condition.

"Australians with severe eczema and their families suffer a significant financial burden due to the ongoing cost of treating eczema, as well as lost employment due to the condition, so financial distress is an area of need which this subsidy will help address," she said.

A recent Australian study has shown the condition increases the risk of insomnia by almost 80 per cent, and anxiety by almost half.

Clinical trials are underway to investigate the use of Dupixent use in children.

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