2 April, 2024

Lisa’s battle on two fronts

BATTLING cancer for more than a decade, Mission Beach woman Lisa Laird is expected to be out of pocket for more than $60,000 unless she becomes eligible to access medication already listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

Lisa’s battle on two fronts - feature photo

Ms Laird is no stranger to the fight – both for her own health and the battle to include medication on the PBS. Now in her 50s, Ms Laird (right)  was first diagnosed with breast cancer in her 40s and has endured a lengthy battle of “living with the disease”.

Just six years ago, Ms Laird along with Katter’s Australian Party MP Bob Katter and Breast Cancer Network Australia successfully fought to have Palbociclib included on the PBS. 

However, with the cancer spreading to her bones, lungs, and stomach, Ms Laird is now on her “final option for treatment” – a drug called trastuzumab deruxtecan (Enhertu) – at about $13,000 per treatment.

While the drug received PBS approval in December 2023, Ms Laird herself is not eligible.

The PBS provides Enhertu to patients diagnosed with HER2-positive breast cancer, but not patients with HER2-negative – which is where Ms Laird falls.

“In simple terms, it’s like the different blood types we all have, and just because mine is different, I’m not eligible,” she  said.

“Is my life worthless to someone else, what’s the difference?” Ms Laird is expected to undergo at least five treatments of Enhertu, which at about $13,000 each, would set her back over $60,000.

The former Feluga tree plantation owner, who can no longer work, said she was appreciative of her generous family who were helping with financial support towards the cost of treatment.

Ms Laird and Mr Katter wrote to the Federal Health Minister Mark Butler in January this year pleading for Enhertu to be made available to patients with HER2-negative breast cancer. 

Mr Butler acknowledged Ms Laird’s difficulties, and referred her to the PBS committee and at its March 2024 meeting it said it would again consider listing Enhertu for HER2-negative patients on the PBS.It is understood the outcome of that meeting will be made available on April 26.


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