Media event date: 
1 September 2019
Date published: 
2 September 2019
Media type: 
Media release
General public

The Morrison Government will invest $27 million to provide affordable access to three new medicine listings through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), helping Australians who are living with complications following stroke, those fighting cancer, and to support the enhanced response to the outbreak of syphilis in northern, central and southern Australia.

Three extended or amended PBS listings from 1 September will include:

Amending the current listing for the medicine Opdivo® (nivolumab) for the treatment of melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer, renal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck to allow patients to receive treatment every four weeks instead of every two weeks;

  • Amending the current PBS listing for this medicine is expected to shorten patient waiting times, reduce costs and fit more easily into patients’ schedules away from the clinic, which can help reduce the burden on the lives of cancer patients
  • Opdivo belongs to a new class of immunotherapy medicines which supercharge the body’s immune system, to fight and kill cancer
  • without subsidy, patients would pay up to $254,200 per course of treatment for Opdivo®
  • patients will be able to access these medicines for $40.30 per script and $6.50 per script for a patients with a concession card.

Botox® (botulinum toxin type A) will have its current PBS listing extended to include adults with lower limb focal spasticity following a stroke;

  • This medicine temporarily relaxes muscles that are overactive or contracting
  • more than 2,800 patients per year are expected to benefit from this listing
  • without PBS subsidy, patients would pay more than $5,400 per year for this treatment.

As part of the Morrison Government’s contribution to the enhanced response to the outbreak of syphilis in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations in northern, central and southern Australia, the current PBS listing of Bicillin L-A® (benzatheine benzylpenicillin) will be extended to now be available through the Emergency Drug Supply Schedule (Prescriber Bag);

  • The listing of this medicine as part of the Emergency Drug Supply Schedule means that eligible patients will receive this treatment free of charge
  • listing Bicillin L-A® is an important measure to address this outbreak by supporting the timely treatment of syphilis in non-remote settings for Aboriginal communities, creating a mechanism for these health services to have stock on site, and/or obtain supply for patients in advance of a consultation
  • there is an ongoing outbreak of infectious syphilis in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations in northern, central and southern Australia. Since the start of the outbreak in 2011 to 31 May 2019, there have been 2,786 cases of infectious syphilis and 16 congenital syphilis cases linked to the outbreak regions of northern and central Australia
  • this listing improves the ability to provide syphilis treatment to any patients who the prescriber may consider are at risk of loss to follow up, and potentially reducing time to treatment
  • this is especially important where urgent treatment is required, such as for pregnant women diagnosed with infectious syphilis and to address the subsequent risk of transmitting the infection to the unborn child, which can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, birth complications, and congenital syphilis.

All of these PBS listings were recommended by the independent expert Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee.

Since 2013, the Australian Government has listed over 2,100 new or amended items on the PBS. This represents an average of around 30 listings per month – or one each day – at an overall cost of around $10.6 billion.

Unlike Labor we are listing all medicines recommended by the medical experts on the PBAC. In 2011 Labor stopped listing medicines on the PBS because they could not manage the economy.

Our commitment to ensuring that Australians can access affordable medicines, when they need them, remains rock solid.