Tocilizumab (Abatacept) shortage update

2 November 2022

There has been a change to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) listings which may affect consumers who were transitioned off tocilizumab and onto another biological disease modifying drug during the recent shortage.

From 1 December 2022, the temporary Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) listings, which allowed patients to transition off tocilizumab during the shortage period onto another biological disease modifying drug (bDMARD), will be placed in ‘Supply Only’ state. This means that these items can no longer be prescribed.

The December Supply Only state allows patients to continue to access outstanding repeats on prescriptions that were issued under these item codes. These items will remain in a Supply Only state from 1 December 2022 for 6 months, before being completely removed.

If you (or someone you provide care for) was switched off tocilizumab to another biological medicine due to the shortage, your prescription for the alternative biological medicine will still remain valid until 30 May 2023. You should have a discussion with your prescriber about ongoing treatment options before the end of this 6-month period.

Resolution of Shortage

Supply of Tocilizumab (Actemra®) intravenous (IV) and subcutaneous (SC) returned to normal pre-pandemic levels in July 2022.

  • New patients may be initiated on any of the ACTEMRA presentations (IV or SC).
  • Patients may resume or switch back to any of the ACTEMRA presentations (IV or SC) as deemed appropriate by their rheumatologist.
  • The Serious Scarcity Substitution Instrument (SSSI) and the TGA shortage notification for subcutaneous formulations expired on 30 April 2022.

Arthritis Australia worked closely with Roche, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), and the Australian Rheumatology Association (ARA) to minimise the impact on consumers during the shortage. Roche has advised that they wish to thank consumers, treating physicians, and pharmacists for their patience and understanding.

Further Information and Support

NB: This article was first published by Arthritis Australia on 1 November 2022 and has been reproduced here with their permission.

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