The federal Department of Health has said that it is up to pharmaceutical companies to put forward a replacement drug after popular drug Primoteston was removed from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) this month.
Primoteston is an injectable form of male sex hormone, popular among transgender men, which produces male levels of testosterone in the body and lasts from 10 to 14 days.
The department previously announced that from February 1 the drug would no longer be subsidised on the PBS, at the request of its manufacturer. It is still available for purchase at the non-subsidised price.
At a Senate Estimates hearing on Wednesday, Greens Senator Janet Rice asked health department spokesperson Penny Shakespeare if the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) would seek out a replacement.
“Even if there are not alternatives, we cannot require a manufacturer to continue to provide medicines through the PBS,” Shakespeare responded.
“The PBAC is generally not involved in decisions by companies to take their products off the PBS.
“Any company that wishes to bring forward another brand or a new medicine to treat a condition can apply at any time to do so and we will consider that application.
“We do not have any capacity to require companies to continue to list their medicines.”
Dr Fiona Bisshop, a transgender health specialist who works at Brisbane’s Holdsworth House, wrote in QNews Magazine last month that the delisting of Primoteston was disappointing because it was an excellent option for many trans men.
“The loss of the PBS listing means that Primoteston, at about $38 per box of three, may now be unaffordable for people who relied on the PBS discount due to their concession card status,” she said.
“However there are some potential alternatives so do have a chat to your doctor about your options.
“There is Sustanon, another short-acting injectable which, although not PBS listed, is about $5 cheaper than Primoteston on a private script.
“The next most popular is Reandron, which is a long-acting injectable that is PBS-listed, lasting up to 14 weeks in some men. The downside is that it’s a larger volume (4ml) and needs to be injected into the gluteal muscle in your backside, so cannot be self-injected.
“Not all guys like long-acting testosterone shots, but I’m a big fan in my practice treating trans men especially, as it’s easier to achieve good male levels without the highs and lows that short-acting injections tend to give.”
For more information, read Dr Bisshop’s #AskDocQ column here.