The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) welcomes the announcement this week by federal Health Minister Greg Hunt that the cystic fibrosis (CF) drug Orkambi® will be added to the PBS effective October 1 2018. Access is available to families immediately as a result of a compassionate request from the government to drug manufacturer Vertex.

Orkambi® slows the decline in lung function and reduces the number of infections and secondary complications in people with CF. It will provide a longer and better quality of life to the more than 1200 Australians who have the most common type of CF, which primarily affects the respiratory, digestive and reproductive systems. CF causes a build-up of sticky mucus in the lungs which clog air passages and trap bacteria. Repeated infections and blockages cause irreversible lung damage which leads to a shortened life expectancy of less than 40 years.

Specialist cardiorespiratory physiotherapy is vital for people with CF. Physiotherapists help patients maintain optimal airway clearance using specific physiotherapy techniques to remove mucus from the lungs, allowing better breathing and fewer infection complications. They also prescribe individualised exercises to assist with breathing, posture, strength, mobility and continence problems as a result of the disease process.

With Orkambi® now part of their treatment regimen, the longer term benefits to patients is an increased capacity to do physio-prescribed exercise, further adding to their quality of life and community participation.

APA National President Phil Calvert understands the debilitating effects of the disease, and the life changing effect this medicine will have, better than most. “This is really great news for cystic fibrosis patients and their families, who up till now had to deal with the merry-go-round of chronic lung infections, hospital stays and constant medical appointments.”

“One of my physiotherapy practice team has CF, and I’m so thrilled that she will be able to enjoy life more actively, without the constant fear of infection as a result of this medicine being available to supplement her other treatments.”

“I really applaud the government for making this addition to the PBS.”

Phil Calvert is available for comment.


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