Radio interview with Minister Butler and Ben Fordham, 2GB - 17 March 2023

Read the transcript of the radio interview between Minister Butler and Ben Fordham on the diabetes drug, Fiasp.

The Hon Mark Butler MP
Minister for Health and Aged Care

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BEN FORDHAM, HOST: I want to bring in the Federal Health Minister, Mark Butler right now, because he's got some news for all those families who rely on the drug Fiasp when they've got diabetes and they need fast-acting insulin. Mark Butler is on the line. Mark, good morning to you. 

MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGED CARE, MARK BUTLER: Good morning, Ben that's a very sad note to join you on, I'm very sorry your loss of obviously a very dear friend. 

FORDHAM: Yeah, sad news. But you’ve also got some good news - we think some good news - for all of these families with diabetes.  

BUTLER: It only became clear to my office and to the diabetes community a few weeks ago that Novo Nordisk was intending to effectively withdraw their Fiasp product, which is used by 14,000 or 15,000 Australians, mainly with type 1 diabetes, from the market as soon as the 1st of April, so very little time. We know how hard it is right now to get in to see a doctor, very little time to make alternative arrangements, and I know how deeply distressing that's been for those families. We have been working behind the scenes because this was a shock to us that the company would take this action, particularly so quickly. We've been working behind the scenes, working with the company. They're not for turning, they won't change their decision; I have no legal power to force them to keep the product on the market forever, but what I have done yesterday is issue what is called a Supply Order which means that the drug will still be available in pharmacies for the next six months, or six and a half months, actually.  

But what I do say to your listeners who are in this situation: you have to have a script before the first of April. I have no legal ability beyond that. If you've got a script with repeats on it before the first of April, or if you've got one in your hand now, you can be assured that you'll still have access to Fiasp until October. I've spoken to Mike Wilson from JDRF who I know is familiar to you, Ben, I've spoken to him, we'll be working with the diabetes groups, including Mike, and with industry to do everything we can to make sure there's an equivalent product put back on the market after that six-month Supply Order expires.

FORDHAM: Some of them are already saying that they can't find it at the moment in pharmacies.

BUTLER: If that is the case, we'll be out talking to pharmacies to make sure that the supply is there. We've got some control over the ability to do that. We've communicated the Supply Order late yesterday to the company. They accept the legal force of that, so they're bound by that, now. It's a legal order made by the Commonwealth Government. We'll do everything we can to make sure that product is out in pharmacies that families are used to going to - that they're accustomed to going to.

FORDHAM: And this company responsible for it, what's their motivation here? Money?  

BUTLER: Well, money, at the end of the day. We depend for medicines - as does every other country in the world - on private companies, first of all, researching and developing these terrific new medicines that change lives, but then that they also are going to put them on a scheme like the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme - the PBS. But at the end of the day, these companies, although they're often very well intentioned, you know, closely connected to communities like the diabetes community, at the end of the day they're focused on profit as well. So, they've taken a commercial decision. The job of government now is to work with the diabetes community and industry to make sure that there's not just an alternative insulin product, because there's plenty of insulin products out on the market, but there's a product that has the same quality that this one has: the super-fast-acting quality about it, and that's what Mike Wilson and his community have been telling us: that this product was a really special product, particularly, not just for, but particularly for, families with children impacted by type 1.

FORDHAM: Well, look, we really appreciate you responding and hopefully we can continue the conversation on the show, Mark. Thank you for jumping on the line this morning and at least giving those families a bit of reassurance over the next six months or so. We'll talk again soon. 

BUTLER: Thanks Ben. 


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