Linda Stokes wants to see immunotherapy drug Keytruda become available through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme to all cancer patients.Linda is pictured with her grandchildren Shannon, 10, Mitchell, 5, and Emma, 11.
Linda Stokes wants to see immunotherapy drug Keytruda become available through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme to all cancer patients.Linda is pictured with her grandchildren Shannon, 10, Mitchell, 5, and Emma, 11. Warren Lynam

Cancer drug breakthrough proves bittersweet for Coast widow

NEWS of a cancer drug funding breakthrough initially came as a kick in the teeth for a Coast grandmother widowed by asbestos.

But Linda Stokes was also delighted to learn immunotherapy drug Keytruda had been listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme for Hodgkin lymphoma patients.

Mrs Stokes just hopes people with other cancers, such as mesothelioma, will also soon get affordable access to the drug.

The Daily spoke with Mrs Stokes and her husband Kim at their Currimundi home in 2015 when they highlighted the crippling cost of Keytruda in the face of Mr Stokes' mesothelioma diagnosis.

His metal fabrication apprenticeship at Alcoa of Australia aluminium plant in Geelong exposed him to asbestos on a daily basis as a teenager.

 

Currimundi man Kim Stokes and his wife Linda Stokes detail their cancer battle in 2015.
Currimundi man Kim Stokes and his wife Linda Stokes detail their cancer battle in 2015. Stuart Cumming

Remnants of his asbestos welding gloves and jackets triggered his disease 40 years later.

He knew Keytruda was not a certainty to stop his cancer spreading but there was enough evidence from other patients that made him want to try.

But it would have cost them about $11,300 a round on an ongoing, three-weekly basis.

They were effectively priced out of the opportunity to use it.

"Without hope, it's hard to face the next day, especially if you are in a situation where you have young grandchildren you are hoping to see grow up," Mrs Stokes said.

Mr Stokes was 61 when he succumbed to his disease in January last year.

His brother Glenn, who completed the same apprenticeship, has recently received the same diagnosis and has been given months to live.

The Federal Government on Sunday announced the drug's addition to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme for Hodgkin lymphoma patients, taking the cost per treatment to a maximum of $39.50 a script or $6.40 for concessional patients.

Despite it not being for her husband's affliction, Mrs Stokes said it still came as "a bit of a kick in the teeth".

"We were praying it would become available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme within Kim's lifetime so he could be given a chance of it working," Mrs Stokes said.

"I think he was prepared to outlay money just to see if it had any effect but it was not sustainable.

"We were just looking for trials the whole time but nothing came up."

She was happy the drug would be more accessible to some lymphoma patients.

"I'd just like to see all mesothelioma patients given access."


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