Mesothelioma Survivor Lou Williams Steps Up Her Drug Advocacy Efforts
Lou Williams wants to make the drug that has helped her survive mesothelioma affordable for her fellow Australians struggling with the asbestos cancer.
Lou lost her father to mesothelioma in 1985 and she has battled the disease herself for nearly 13 years. With the help of a new drug, Keytruda, Lou’s tumors have begun shrinking and she has a new lease on life.
“Keytruda has given me back my life, as my body was literally shutting down,” Lou told MesotheliomaHelp via email.
“I am now once again living my life with quality, strength and determination.”
As her strength returns, so does her resolve to fight for other mesothelioma victims. She is now focused on making Keytruda available to Aussies at a reasonable cost.
On Sept. 3 Lou will have her eighth dose of Keytruda, an immunotherapy drug from Merck approved in the U.S. and Australia for melanoma, but not yet approved in either country for mesothelioma. For Australians, that means a mesothelioma patient must pay thousands of dollars per dose, administered every three weeks—a deal breaker for many.
Lou Working With Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme
Keytruda is being touted as one of the biggest breakthroughs in mesothelioma treatment. In the simplest of explanations, Keytruda enhances the body’s immune response to cancer, allowing natural defense mechanisms to kick in and fight mesothelioma tumors. A recent U.S. clinical trial found Keytruda to be effective in controlling mesothelioma tumors in three-fourths of patients, leading researchers to say the results are “encouraging.”
After having exhausted all of her treatment options earlier this year and being at death’s door, Lou has, with regular Keytruda doses, rebounded beyond what she and others thought was possible. She said in an August 20 Examiner article that her palliative care nurse, husband and oncologist all say her recovery has been “miraculous.”
It has also been expensive. Lou acknowledged in a recent blog post that having quality of life back is priceless, but “Our credit card is taking a battering.”
To make Keytruda more accessible for other mesothelioma sufferers, Lou’s goal is to get the drug added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). This would allow Australian oncologists to offer the treatment to mesothelioma patients free of charge or for a negligible amount.
The PBS is a government run service available to all Australian residents who hold a current Medicare card. Through the PBS, the Australian government subsidizes the cost of medicine for most medical conditions.
“We need to have Keytruda in the PBS list alongside melanoma so others diagnosed with mesothelioma can have another treatment option to discuss with their oncologist,” Lou said.
Lou and her husband met with their local Federal Member of Parliament in late July to get the PBS to accept Keytruda on the mesothelioma treatment list. She reported in her August 4 post that her local Member Parliament’s office told her that they have made initial contact with the drug company and are anticipating discussions later this month, a development Lou described as “very promising”.
Lou is passionate about seeing asbestos banned globally. Her work with the Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia, Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization of the U.S., and countless other organizations, as well as her non-stop media tour to get the word out about the dangers of asbestos, has impacted people worldwide.
But for Lou, it still is not enough.
“It would mean the world to me knowing that those diagnosed with mesothelioma can have freedom and peace of mind choice without the worry of cost to consider,” said Lou.
Follow Lou’s mesothelioma and advocacy battle on her blog at “Asbestos – Living with Mesothelioma in Australia – Louise (Lou) Williams.”
You can contact Lou at [email protected].
Photo Credit: The Examiner
- Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme