Good morning Minister, welcome to AM.
Good morning Sabra.
I understand that this means that there will be supply now stored within Australia in about two months time. How many more people will be able to access the drug after these changes?
Well what this means is that there will be a supply to meet all Australian demand. That won’t happen overnight but what we’ve done here is issue a call for people to be able to establish an interim supply for and within Australia through importation.
That will change the situation quite significantly. So last year, the law was put in place which made medicinal cannabis available.
Now however, I want to on coming into the portfolio, deal immediately with the question of supply and so we’re creating an interim national supply through an import process done by private companies.
We’ve already had very strong interest. Today we are issuing the call through the Health Department and the Office of Drug Control for particular applications and in the meantime this will be available whilst state cultivation is occurring in Victoria.
I think they’re doing a very good job and ultimately private cultivation and so the first licence for private cultivation was issued last week and that will take time but we want to get on right now with making easier and faster access available for patients who are ultimately the real users of safe, high quality, appropriately obtained medicine.
Okay so you’ll allow the importation of the drug until domestic production meets demand. When do you think that will happen?
So Victoria has indicated to me that they’re looking at the middle of the year, if not a little bit later. They’re doing all of the right things and in addition to that, they are looking to fill that gap.
They’re not promising that they’ll cover everyone in Australia. So we will make sure that there are sufficient supplies for all of the medical demand.
In addition to that, you then have the private cultivation program which has been developed for the long term supplies.
So our goal though, right now, as quickly as possible, is to make sure that where doctors who are appropriately authorised do prescribe this as a medicine because it’s a very serious medicine and it’s appropriately done by doctors where they do that.
Then people will be able to access that medicine. I think that’s my task, my duty, and just one of the first things I’ve done in the role.
Sure but just quickly, when do you think there might be a local production of this to be able to meet local demand entirely without importing it?
Well Victoria has talked about the middle of the year. I’ve spoken directly with the Victorian Health Minister and I commend what they’re doing.
So they’re talking about the middle of the year but it may not meet all supply. If not, I’m assuming off the basis of the first of the licences that that may take a year but what we want to do is ensure continuous adequate supply of product.
Sure we understand that point. Earlier in the year there were calls from them and amnesty for patients buying the medicine illegally.
The Prime Minister ruled it out but this effectively is saying that the Government needed to allow more access. Will you reconsider an amnesty?
That’s not actually an issue for the Commonwealth Government. That’s entirely under state law so our role constitutionally is to make this medicine available.
The states have sole and exclusive ownership of the laws relating to the treatment of individuals with possession so that’s entirely a matter for the state.
You’ve been health minister for more than a month now. What kind of freedom have your been given to fix problems within the portfolio?
Look the Prime Minister has been very forthcoming. As he said only last week he was very keen. He said this in Parliament for me to work with the medical profession and I’m developing a long term National Health Plan.
And that’s aimed at firstly the rock solid support for Medicare, the support for the hospital system, mental health and preventive health which is a deep personal passion, a deep passion and then medical research.
Right now, we’re working with the different doctors groups from the AMA, the College of General Practitioners, I met last night with the head of the council of all of the different specialty colleges in Australia and so we’re working with the different medical groups on that long term plan, on an agreement and I’ve got to say I’ve been very, very heartened about the constructive way that all of them have gone about it.
Sure have you got a role as a kind of Mr Fix-It? And the Prime Minister last week said that the Government was revisiting this issue of the Medicare rebate freeze. Will that be thawed by the budget?
Well the Prime Minister has said and I have said that that is an item we would be willing to review and we are willing to review subject to a very clear set of reforms that will help make the system stronger and better.
So as we bring on new medicines, as we bring on new treatments such as immunotherapy, as we make new drugs available for children with rare diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, as we were able to do in only the last couple of weeks, we can sustain that into the long term so Australians get better health outcomes.
So it’s about making sure that we get an agreement where there is what the doctors need to keep progressing but what we need in order to provide the best outcomes for the patients and I am actually very confident that we can have a long term National Health Plan which improves access, improves treatment, improves the hospital system for the patient and at the same time allows us to establish a deep, strong working relationship with the general practitioners and the medical specialists.
Minister thank you, that’s all we’ve got time for on AM this morning.
Thanks very much, Sabra.