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Interview on 5AA with Leon Byner

Transcript of Minister for Health, Greg Hunt's interview on 5AA with Leon Byner regarding new PBS listings for cancer and asthma.

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

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Greg Hunt, thanks for joining us today. Tell us about what was going to cost asthma sufferers $21,000 a year, that's now going to be on the PBS.


So there's a new medicine, Fasenra, and that's been listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and it is for people with severe asthma, and over 670 patients will benefit and- because they would otherwise have had to have paid $21,000 a year.

Now, it will be $6.40 or $39.50 a script. So, the vast majority of people would never have been able to have afforded that amount year-on-year and this brings that medicine into their reach and literally helps change their lives.


Now, what about cancer treatments? Because I know there's been a lot of additives this year as to cancer medicines. You’ve added some on the PBS for that, too?


That's right. So as of Saturday, so 1 December, the five new medicines that will help treat almost 3000 people and they’re for leukaemia, in particular, acute myeloid leukaemia; for pancreatic and what are called neuroendocrine tumours, in particular – an amazing new breakthrough.

The - a combination with immunotherapy, which allows the body's immune system to fight back from melanoma, bowel cancer, and the very, very insidious ovarian cancer.

And these medicines would have cost up to $100,000 per year. So, for all of those that are affected and their families and their friends, it's literally life-changing and it's ultimately about saving lives and protecting lives and doing real things that couldn't have a more profound impact.


Now, this is a significant investment from the taxpayer budgets. You're talking, I think, about $100 million?


That's right. It's all up a $100 million investment and that is probably as good as any possible use of public funding, where we're providing these lifesaving or life-changing medicines.

The melanoma medicine, the combination of OPDIVO and Yervoy was, for example, the medicine that was used to treat Jarryd Roughead, the Hawthorn Football Club Captain.

It made a massive difference to his life, got him back on the field. I met one of the patients, Ben Kiernan a magnificent young man.

He would never have been able to have afforded $100,000 a year, as virtually nobody could. And his life is back on track. He was on one of the trials, but now for 800 patients with that melanoma a year, that's just completely life-changing.


Are there any more drugs going to be added before Christmas?


So, what they do is the medical experts advise and we should have some more drugs that are currently being considered, and I'm hopeful that on 1 January and 1 February, we'll have more drugs, and if the medical experts recommend them, we will list them.


Now, have we sorted out the use of hospitals taking private patients and then using the revenue to cost shift? You and I have talked about this before. Have there been any more discussions between yourself and the states on this?


Yes. Look, we have been working with the states on that.

I'm hopeful that we will make progress and it matters for two reasons.

One is because it will blow out the waiting lists for public patients, so those that don't have private health insurance, they have to wait longer because the private patients were being given a fast-track by some governments, in particular Queensland and Victoria.

So putting pressure on their public patients – people who might not be able to afford private health insurance.

And secondly, it puts pressure on private health insurance costs. So, they’re the things that we're working on. South Australia has been very balanced.

They want to make sure that they're protecting their own public hospitals and their revenue, but at the same time, not putting pressure on waiting lists or private health insurance premiums.


That's the Health Minister Greg Hunt with some good news on many medicines hitting the PBS.

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