Australia’s first PBS-subsidised treatment for adults living with increasingly prevalent inflammatory oesophagus disease launched today

Experts calling for timely diagnosis & treatment of eosinophilic oesophagitis (EoE)

You may not have heard of eosinophilic oesophagitis (EoE) (e-o-sin-o-FILL-ik-uh-sof-uhJIE-tis), but this immune system disease identified only a few decades ago, is on the rise. So much so, that it’s currently estimated to afflict one in 2,000 Aussie adults.  

EoE occurs when a specific type of white blood cell (eosinophils) builds up in the lining of the oesophagus (tube that connects the mouth with the stomach), causing difficulty swallowing, chest pain, regurgitation of food, and/or food getting stuck. It is also reportedly associated with anxiety and depression in some EoE patients.  

The good news is, that eligible adults living with this lifelong, debilitating disease will gain access to a new treatment listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) from today (May 1, 2022).

Jorveza® (budesonide) represents Australia’s first Therapeutic Goods administration (TGA)-approved, and PBS-subsidised treatment for adults living with EoE. The medication belongs to a group of medications known as corticosteroids or anti-inflammatories.

According to Gastroenterologist from Eastern Health, Dr Sanjay Nandurkar, Melbourne, treatment is crucial to prevent permanent damage to the oesophagus.

“If left untreated, 30 to 50 per cent of people living with EoE are at risk of food suddenly becoming stuck in the oesophagus (food impaction), which may require removal in the emergency department.

“Treatment to control the build-up of eosinophils in the oesophagus, and the resulting inflammation and fibrosis [tissue thickening or scarring] is needed to prevent the oesophagus becoming permanently damaged,” said Dr Nandurkar.

“Permanent damage to the oesophagus can cause scarring, and may also cause the oesophagus to narrow, further increasing the risk of both food getting stuck in your throat, and emergency hospitalisation.

“Today’s PBS listing of a new treatment for Australians living with EoE will improve treatment access for Australian adults living with the disease,” Dr Nandurkar said.

EoE is mainly caused by an allergic reaction to food, although environmental allergens, such as pollen, animals, mould, and dust mites may also be involved, says Gastroenterology Staff Specialist at St Vincent’s Hospital, and Director at St Vincent’s Centre for Swallowing and Oesophageal Disorders, Dr Santosh Sanagapalli, Sydney.

“Around 75 per cent of those living with EoE have a history of other allergies, such as hay fever, eczema or asthma.

“Although there is currently no cure for EoE, treatment aims to significantly reduce the build-up of eosinophils, thereby reducing inflammation, fibrosis and associated symptoms,” Dr Sanagapalli said.

“Current treatment involves either an elimination diet or anti-inflammatory medication. Endoscopic procedures might also be required in some patients,” said Dr Sanagapalli.

Hockey Hockey team captain and croupier, James, 20, Melbourne, wrestled with swallowing food and chest pain for more than six years before his EoE diagnosis.

“I began to experience trouble when swallowing food in my early teens. At first, I felt a tightness down my throat. Then eventually, I began to vomit when eating,” James said.

He has since trialled a range of EoE-related treatments in a quest to effectively manage his debilitating disease. 

“I currently take medication every day, and I am mindful of just how fast I eat, and how food moves through my oesophagus. 

“Given EoE is a really complicated, long-term disease, with no known cure, being able to effectively manage its symptoms with timely and affordable treatment, is crucial,” said James.

Founder and CEO of patient advocacy group, ausEE Inc., and mother to an 18-year-old daughter living with EoE, Sarah Gray, Sunshine Coast, welcomed today’s reimbursement of a new treatment option for those living with EoE.

“Prior to the approval and availability of Jorveza in Australia, many patients living with EoE used ‘off label’, sub-optimal medications typically designed for asthma, or proton pump inhibitor (PPI) medication.

“The PBS listing of Jorveza therefore, provides those living with EoE access to an affordable medication that is specifically designed for the treatment of EoE,” Sarah said.

“New treatments are crucial for the disease, given EoE can seriously compromise the lives of patients and their families.

“Due to a fear of food obstruction, patients living with EoE may experience anxiety and/or depression,” said Sarah.

“They may also avoid group occasions involving food due to fear of choking and the public embarrassment from this which can lead to social isolation, further compounding anxiety and depression.”

To learn more about Jorveza®, refer to the product’s Consumer Medicine Information (CMI) here, or speak to your doctor or pharmacist.

For further help and social support, reach out to ausEE Inc. on 1300 923 043

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