After a two-year wait, Mount Ousley resident Keith Sadler is delighted that his stroke-prevention medication will be listed on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme from next Monday.
Mr Sadler is one of 600 people in the Illawarra who have been receiving the anticoagulant Pradaxa (dabigatran) for free under an early access program, which was due to end.
He’d lived with an irregular heartbeat for decades but was prescribed the blood-thinning medication after suffering a stroke in September 2011.
‘‘I’ve had atrial fibrillation, or irregular heartbeat, for 20-odd years with no problems until the stroke,’’ Mr Sadler said. ‘‘After that, my doctor prescribed me Pradaxa instead of the aspirin I’d been taking for years. I was fortunate enough to be on the familiarisation program, which meant I got it for free – normally it would have cost me over $150 a month.’’
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee recommended Pradaxa be included on the PBS in March 2011 but it has since been under government review.
Mr Sadler had been making his own representations to Cunningham MP Sharon Bird and federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek since his stroke, and was grateful that it had finally been approved.
‘‘Unlike [another blood-thinning agent], there’s no need for regular blood tests, no need to change your diet and restrict certain foods and it doesn’t interfere with other medications,’’ he said.
‘‘Without its listing on the PBS, people would be forced to pay the high price, use other medications with more side effects, or just risk having a stroke.
‘‘This is great news for everyone with this condition.’’
Atrial fibrillation affects one in 20 people over the age of 65 and is associated with more than 6000 strokes each year in Australia.
World Stroke Organisation president and The Royal Melbourne Hospital director of neurology Professor Stephen Davis welcomed the availability of a new generation of stroke-prevention medications.
“Around 100,000 Australians with diagnosed atrial fibrillation are currently untreated and therefore, at unnecessary risk of stroke,’’ Prof Davis said.
‘‘An atrial fibrillation-related stroke occurs every hour and-a-half in Australia. New treatment options are long overdue.’’