Date published: 
21 March 2018
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

GREG HUNT:

Well thank you everybody, I’m really delighted to be here today at Serafim Pharmacy and we’ve met Nick who is the owner. It’s been in his family since his father founded it in 1951. In their window today, they have a display about PrEP and PrEP- Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, will be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme from 1 April and this is about the moment where Australia can become one of the first countries in the world to eliminate the transmission of HIV.

This is about saving lives and protecting lives but it’s also about saying to the rest of the world, if we can do this in Australia, we cannot just beat HIV here but beat it right around the world. This moment was impossible, impossible, a generation ago but because of the work of extraordinary researchers such as Professor David Cooper whom we honour with today’s announcement.

David Cooper and so many others such as Professor Andrew Grulich, who is here, who is the head of HIV research, treatment, and testing at the Kirby Institute, have given their life’s work to addressing, treating, and beating HIV.

And there could not be a more fitting tribute to David’s life, to David’s work as not just one of Australia’s but one of the world’s leaders in HIV research and treatment. And the day after his passing, the day after his funeral, to launch a new drug in terms of PrEP which will offer us the chance to beat HIV transmission and to eliminate HIV transmission here in Australia.

From 1 April PrEP will be available for concessional payments at $6.40 and $39.50 for non-concessional. Otherwise it would be $2,500. At least 32,000 patients a year we expect to benefit. It comes with the very strong message that Nick has in his window, that Professor Darryl O’Donnell from the Australian Federation of Aids Organisation is emphasising, that my great friend and colleague and advocate and campaigner for PrEP Trent Zimmerman’s emphasising, that PreP and safe sex together are the pathway to beating HIV in Australia.

We know from Andrew’s work that already in the trials they’ve seen a 30 per cent reduction in Transmission of HIV infection. So this is a great moment in Australian medical history. In this pharmacy, at this place, we are at the forefront of global leadership for giving people the opportunity to live their lives HIV-free. I’m delighted to introduce Professor Darryl O’Donnell and after that Professor Andrew Grulich and then Trent Zimmerman who has been one of the great advocate for this listing today.

DARRYL O’DONNELL:

Thank you minister. I’m delighted to be here this morning to be part of this launch with the minister and with Trent and Andrew to announce the lasting PrEP on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme from 1 April. There is absolutely no doubt that PrEP is a game changer for Australia’s response to HIV.

With the introduction of PrEP we are absolutely certain that we will be able to drive rates of HIV in this country to very, very low levels. It’s an important part of the equation and from 1 April people who are at high risk of HIV will be able to go to their doctor, talk to their doctor about whether PrEP might be suitable for them and then have the convenience of walking next door to a community pharmacy and being able to access this drug.

This is an extremely simple drug, it’s taking once a day to prevent HIV. So it’s quite analogous to the oral contraceptive pill. And just as the oral contraceptive pill really opened up options for women globally in the 60s, PrEP will make a huge difference in the ways in which people who are at high risk of HIV are able to protect themselves from HIV in Australia.

PrEP is an astonishingly affective drug, more than 99 per cent affective in protecting HIV transmission. In all the years of our response to the epidemic I don’t think we could have hoped for a drug to be this effective in preventing the transmission of HIV. So we really are very fortunate to now have the scale up, the access to PrEP, becoming so readily available in Australia. PrEP is an incredibly important part of the puzzle in responding to HIV.

Without PrEP we won’t be able to get to the Australian Government’s goal of virtually eliminating HIV in Australia in the coming few years. But it’s not all of the puzzle and we’ll need to be putting PrEP in place alongside really intensified efforts to prevent, to educate people about HIV, about their risks, and also to make sure that those who are diagnosed with HIV have immediate access to HIV treatment. I’m delighted to be part of this announcement and warmly welcome the Government’s commitment on PreP.

GREG HUNT:

Andrew?

ANDREW GRULICH:

Thank you Minister, and thank you very much for that moving tribute to Professor Cooper, our leader at the Kirby Institute. We are the Kirby Institute are devastated by his loss. He would have loved to have been here today.

This would have pleased him enormously to have seen this listed on the PBS. If taken correctly, PrEP is close to 100 per cent effective in the prevention of HIV and that is just tremendous news. In New South Wales where the research-based implementation of PrEP through the Ethics Study has been greatest, we’ve seen a 30 per cent decline in new HIV infections in the year following implementation.

So this is tremendously exciting. But in that study we did see that declines were smaller in some population groups, like non-English speaking gay men, in younger gay men and in gay men who live outside the inner city. So PBS availability will mean we can have truly universal access to PrEP. We can get it out to the suburbs, to the country, nationwide and only through the PBS listing will we be able to really move towards elimination of HIV. So it’s a great day for HIV prevention. Thanks Minister.

TRENT ZIMMERMAN:

Well thank you Greg. This is such an important day for healthcare in Australia because it gives us a real shot at ending the transmission of HIV on our shores. I’m old enough to remember when HIV and AIDS first arrived in Australia, the tragic deaths, the fear, and at times the irrational hysteria that accompanied the disease.

But Australia went on to become an internationally recognised leader in tackling HIV and AIDS infections. And that’s in large measure because of the incredible work of our health professionals and researchers, people like Professor David Cooper who has done so much to support those living with HIV.

We’ve moved through stages, moved from the initial onset of HIV and AIDS in Australia to see it become a disease that was manageable and today we have that chance to end the transmission of HIV in Australia. That is fantastic news for all Australians but particular those vulnerable communities that are most at risk of HIV.

And I want to pay credit to Greg and his predecessors because one of the features of HIV in Australia has been the bipartisan support at the federal and state level which has seen governments tackle HIV with the degree of effort that has made Australia that international leader. So, it is an important day for Australia and this is a great decision to see PrEP listed on the PBS and become accessible to Australians across our country.

GREG HUNT:

Happy to take any questions if we start with PrEP and then move beyond.

QUESTION:

Minister, what’s going to be the price difference between what people would be paying now for this drug and what it will cost on the PBS?

GREG HUNT:

So, it would have cost about $2,500 a year for patients and so that is beyond the reach of so many people and now it will be $6.40 or $39.50

QUESTION:

Per?

GREG HUNT:

Per course.

QUESTION:

Okay and why did it take us so long to get here?

GREG HUNT:

Well it’s actually the opposite. What we’ve done is through the trials, the work of the TGA which accesses whether or not the drug is safe and appropriate and then through the work of the Pharmaceuticals Benefits Advisory Committee we’ve been able to bring this forward and work very quickly.

It was approved by the PBAC in December and listed now. That’s a very fast turnaround time. So, I’ve actually made it a personal project, the advocacy of Trent and of Dean Smith and others, the work of Darryl and Andrew and Professor David Cooper, this says that it’s such a priority and so we’re contributing $180 million to the bringing of this drug onto the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme so it’s a worthwhile investment. It’s a big investment but it’s a worthwhile investment and we’ve given it priority.

QUESTION:

Do you know how many Australians are expected to use the drug via the PBS?

GREG HUNT:

So we’re expecting about 32,000 Australians a year will take up PrEP. Now that’s part of the work of Darryl and Andrew to ensure that all those who need PrEP seek their scripts and then comply with it.

It’s very important the point that there are two points of compliance. One is to follow the prescription and secondly to ensure that it’s twinned with the safe sex message, that this is the moment where when the two are together we can eliminate HIV in Australia.

QUESTION:

And Australia’s rate of HIV is going down every year, aren’t people more educated about practicing safe sex?

GREG HUNT:

Yes, there have been tremendous strides not just in the medical treatments of HIV but also in terms of safe sex practice. But we know that in differing communities there can be a slip backwards.

We’ve seen significant HIV numbers in some Indigenous communities so we’re very specifically engaging in an education campaign, we’re providing $1.2 million of additional funds so as PrEP comes with a surge in education about safe sex. Not just to deal with HIV but also to deal with the other STIs.

QUESTION:

Sorry, did you say it would have otherwise cost $2,000 a year?

GREG HUNT:

Two and a half thousand.

QUESTION:

Two and a half thousand dollars. And was that the cost that it was before going on the PBS?

GREG HUNT:

Yes. Alright, thank you very much.

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