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Doorstop interview about new PBS listings for cancer and inflammatory disease medicines

Read the transcript of Minister Hunt talking about new medicine listings through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) to help patients fighting aggressive forms of cancer and inflammatory conditions.

The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Former Minister for Health and Aged Care

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I’m Katie Allen. I’m the Member for Higgins and we’re here at Cabrini Hospital.

I’m very proud to be part of an announcement being made today by Minister Greg Hunt. It's about protecting lives, saving lives and finding cures and there's nothing better than to hear that there is a new drug that may be able to save your life.

And we're going to hear today about new announcements for new drugs that will be available for patients to help their lives be better and you can't deliver good health and good outcomes without a strong economy.

So I'm very proud to be part of the Morrison Government that is delivering a strong economy so that we can have drugs that save the lives of patients, and Minister Greg Hunt has been, in my view, the best Minister for Health that we've ever had.

I've said that many times. But he really has a focus on making sure that we're delivering for patients so that they can have better lives; so that their families can feel comfort that they're going to have a bright future ahead.

So, welcome Minister Hunt to Cabrini and to Higgins. We're delighted that you're here to announce some very important announcements with regards to the PBS. Thank you, Greg.


Great. Look, thanks very much to Katie.

It's just a privilege to be here at Cabrini Hospital. Katie is formally the Member for Higgins but I have said she is also the Member for Cabrini. She was on the board here and she is really an extraordinary asset in addition to the Parliament as well as the local electorate.

Today is, as Katie says, about saving lives and protecting lives patients such as Hugh and Michael and Alastair, whose lives have literally been saved by the medicines we're announcing today or significantly improved, in the case of Alastair, and to be here with Sue Williams and Ben Brady and the extraordinary team at Cabrini, to have Stephen and Ron and Melita and so many other medical leaders, as well as patient advocates, as well as our patients, is to bring everything together.

One of the things that it's a privilege to be involved in and which has been a deep, personal passion and commitment, not just of myself but also of the Prime Minister, is bringing forward new medicines for listing on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and those medicines give patients real hope and a real chance at cure, treatment or improve quality of life exactly what she was talking about in terms of his own circumstances and conditions.

So I am delighted to announce that the Australian Government will list three new cancer medicines and a new medicine for an arthritic condition on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme from 1 August this week.

In particular, Avastin will be listed for refractory glioblastoma. This is an aggressive brain cancer and it's a frightening and terrifying diagnosis for any family, and we know that over 900 patients will benefit with the saving of over $31,000 a year. That's an immensely important gift of hope to Australian patients.

In addition to that, Sprycel will be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme for Philadelphia positive acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. Leukaemia is another frightening diagnosis and for any patients who save over $51,000 a year, this is a gift of hope and of life.

Michael has been on Sprycel for eight years. He was given two and a half years to live and he's not just surviving, he's thriving and his story is the story of hope that we want everybody to have.

Importantly, my advice is that this is the first time any government anywhere in the world is listing Sprycel for this condition and that says that Australia is leading the world on cancer treatment through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

Somatuline is being used for neuroendocrine tumours. So, these gastrointestinal tumours, again, can be devastating for families and for patients, in particular. It's a $23,000 a year medicine that will now be available for $6.50 or $40.30 a script, and most significantly, it will help over 760 patients.

So all of these things make a profound difference. We met Alistair and Alistair has been battling arteritis, which is a vascular form of arthritis, and what that means is that Actemra is helping to reduce the inflammation. It's giving Alistair and other patients real relief and real hope. A medicine that would cost $10,000 will now benefit over 850 patients.

So, all of these things come together to save lives and protect lives and I am thrilled and delighted that from 1 August, three medicines for brain cancer, for leukaemia and for intestinal cancer will now be available as well as relief for patients with what can be an agonising condition in terms of inflammation.

I might ask Stephen if you want to say something and then Ron.


Giant cell arteritis is a condition of older people. It usually requires high dose cortisone. Cortisone is a terrible drug in terms of side effects so it's very effective.

And so a drug that can reduce the risk of the side effects by lessening the need for cortisone makes a monumental difference not only to elderly patients with this condition and even younger patients with this condition, but also to their families and to the community generally, so we don't have to worry about infections and fractures and diabetes and cataracts and (inaudible) and all the other wretched things that follow cortisone.

So, having this drug on the PBS is a really major advance for rheumatologists and other people who treat giant cell arteritis and more particularly, for the patients who suffer from it. So, thank you.


Great. Thank you. And Ron.


Thank you. There is no question that some patients with glioblastoma, which is a common form of primary brain tumour that we see in adults, respond very well to bevacizumab or Avastin.

These patients had an aggressive high grade tumour that when the tumour relapses after initial therapies with surgery radiotherapy and chemotherapy, we sometimes can see very substantial improvement with Avastin or bevacizumab in terms of reduction in tumour size, improvement to the patient's (inaudible) symptoms and importantly, improving their quality of life.

So having this drug PBS-listed, really will make a big difference, a big benefit for our patients living with glioblastoma. It will give us another treatment option, a valuable treatment option, we can use at the time of tumour recurrence. So thank you.


These medicines being put on this list, is this is a long time coming? Is this something that's been pushed for quite some time?


It has been pushed for quite some time and we're really very grateful that it is available now. It really will make a big difference to a lot of our patients, it will be great.


Okay. Happy to take any questions either on the listings or other matters of the day.


Minister, what are (inaudible the decision to put these particular medicines on the list?


So, whenever the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee makes a recommendation, we're committed to making the listings.

By law, we can't list without the medical experts having considered and approved for safety and effectiveness.

But I am thrilled that they have done the work, done the clinical trials. And so, we were discussing the fact that here at Cabrini, there were over 78 clinical trials currently being carried out and those clinical trials are a way of determining safety, determining effectiveness, but also getting medicines to patients earlier.

And our commitment is absolute that if the medical experts recommend the medicines, we will list them on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and save tens of thousands of dollars or in some cases of patients, hundreds of thousands of dollars.


And same question as before, is this something that's been a long time coming for these particular medicines?


Yeah. This has been a passion for me and I know for the Prime Minister as well to get these medicines up on the list. So I was thrilled when the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, the medical experts, made the recommendation and we've moved as quickly as possible and I want to thank the companies involved for assisting us to get there as quickly as possible, to make the medicines available from this week.


Just on another topic about Minister Angus Taylor, why shouldn't the Energy Minister face a Senate inquiry regarding his stake in the family farming business, Jam Land, and whether ministerial standards have been breached?


Well, I think it's absolutely clear that all of the ordinary processes have not only been followed but he's followed them to the letter. And I think the ALP should consider very carefully misusing the Parliament for political advantage and I think that that's an inappropriate thing for them to do.

They should consider their roles as parliamentarians, not as a political opposition, because if they want to misuse their position, that's not the right way for Anthony Albanese to start his term as Opposition Leader.


Senator Rex Patrick now says he’ll support a Senate inquiry. What do you make of that?


I'll leave that to him. Okay. Thank you very much.



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