Breakthrough in leukemia treatment comes at heavy cost

A path-breaking new drug to treat leukaemia has given hope to patients as it kills nearly 90 per cent of their cancer in the first dose.

The drug Gazyva is so powerful it can send patients into shock – perhaps in more ways than one, as it comes with a whopping price tag of $42,000.

Though the drug has been approved for use in Australia, it is not yet subsidised by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. It also has some serious side effects including increased risk of infections, including lower white blood cell count and reduced ability of the blood to clot, as well as fever, cough, and muscle and joint pain.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine earlier this year showed  Gazyva delayed the progression of the  cancer  in patients using the  drug in combination with an older chemotherapy by 26.7 months, 15 months longer than progression-free survival in patients using standard treatment.