Date published: 
30 September 2019
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

DAVID KOCH:

Now, changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme will see more than half a million Aussie patients get cheaper medicines. The plan, which comes into effect tomorrow, will cut the price of common prescriptions sold under 175 different brands. Access to other drugs to treat lung cancer, forms of leukaemia, and nausea associated with chemotherapy will also now be available to patients on the PBS for just $40.30 per script, or $6.50 with a concession card.

Health Minister Greg Hunt joins us with more details. Minister, good morning to you. Now, there are two parts to this announcement.

GREG HUNT:

[Talks over] [Indistinct].

DAVID KOCH:

The first, let's talk about the life-changing cancer drugs. What has been done to make them more affordable and accessible?

GREG HUNT:

So there will be breakthrough new medicines for cancer, such as stage four lung cancer where Avastin will come onto the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme from tomorrow, medicine that would have otherwise cost $189,000 will now help over 750 patients and be available for as little as $6.50. For leukaemia, in particular acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, Besponsa would have cost over $120,000 and will now be available. And nausea which comes with chemotherapy, which can be such an additional and agonising complication for so many people, will be available for more than 7000 patients – a new medicine called Apotex. So these are life-saving or life-changing medicines that will be available from tomorrow.

DAVID KOCH:

Yeah, that is terrific news. Also 15 common drugs will also be cheaper. Which patients will benefit most from them?

GREG HUNT:

In particular, you have medicines for high cholesterol such as Ezetimibe which helps over 300,000 patients in Australia. So there will be numerous listeners this morning who will be aware that they’re on Ezetimibe. That will be up to $6 a script cheaper and depending on somebody’s prescription, that might be $60 or $70 a year. And that makes a massive difference to the cost of living for families as well as ensuring that the medicines are provided cheaply.

DAVID KOCH:

Yeah. I also find this interesting. There's a push to extend the expiry date of prescriptions for people on long-term medication. They’re to give patients two months' supply rather than monthly scripts, saving them visits back to the doctor to get the new script done and the cost of pharmacy dispensing fees. If access to affordable medicine is a priority for the government, why aren't you backing this as well?

GREG HUNT:

We’re reviewing that idea carefully. We always work very closely with the medical experts and so we want to make sure that each idea is appropriate and effective…

DAVID KOCH:

[Talks over] Okay.

GREG HUNT:

… but as you can see, we’re reducing the cost of medicines now. We’re also reducing the cost of medicines on the [audio skip] additional savings of over $80 a year, so big things that are very important …

DAVID KOCH:

[Talks over] But you’re going to review this?

GREG HUNT:

… and life changing medicines coming forward.

DAVID KOCH:

[Talks over] But you’re going to review this – this prescription issue that a lot are pushing for? You’re looking at it.

GREG HUNT:

Yeah, so that idea is one that we are considering. But as you can see today, $390 million in savings coming in. January 1, more savings. So we’re always looking at what’s both safe and effective for patients.

DAVID KOCH:

Okay, so we’ve got cuts now. What’s coming in on January 1? Is this a whole new other list…

GREG HUNT:

[Talks over] So on January 1, what you’ll see is that we're going to decrease the number of medicines that are required for somebody to qualify for what is called the Pharmaceutical Benefits Safety Net. That means that after a certain number of scripts, they access their medicines for free or on an even more discounted basis than at present and essentially, that means an extra $80 of savings for people who have frequent needs for medicines.

DAVID KOCH:

Okay, terrific. Greg Hunt, thanks for joining us.

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