House debates

Tuesday, 2 August 2022

Questions without Notice

Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

2:38 pm

Photo of Mark ButlerMark Butler (Hindmarsh, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Health and Aged Care) Share this | Hansard source

I'm delighted to get this question from the member for Macarthur because the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, or PBS, is one of Labor's proudest legacies. Just like with Medicare, it was vigorously opposed for many years by the Liberal Party, but it has become one of the world's best medicine systems, balancing fiscal sustainability, timely access to new medicines and patient affordability.

We are getting on with the job of listing new life-saving and life-changing medicines on the PBS for Australians. Already our government has approved six new listings on the PBS, including a listing yesterday of Spinraza for adults with spinal muscular atrophy, SMA, a rare condition which affects the motor neurons in the spinal cord, causing difficulty with basic functions like breathing or swallowing or causing paralysis or even death. This is the first listed treatment for adults with SMA, and, without it, Spinraza would cost patients a whopping $300,000 every year. Now around 100 patient also pay no more than $42.50 for this life-changing medicine.

We are all lucky to be living through a turbocharged period of discovery which is constantly producing treatments for conditions that not long ago were thought to be untreatable. Our government is committed to the PBS delivering Australian patients affordable access to these extraordinary new medicines. And we'll make them even more affordable, slashing the maximum price of medicines for millions of general patients by $12.50 a script. Not only will this be great for Australian household budgets but it will be good for Australians' health, too, because we know from the ABS that around a million Australians every year are deciding not to fill a script that their doctor has said is important for their health because they simply can't afford it. Pharmacists tell me and other members on this side, and probably on the other side, about customers asking for their advice about which of their medicines is the most important, because they can't afford to buy them all, perhaps choosing a medicine that gives them more instant relief but forgoing one that's actually really important for their longer-term health.

This government will help prevent Australians from having to short-change their own health. General patients who fill two scripts a month will save $300 a year under our government, while also getting access to innovative new treatments like Spinraza. We are getting on with the job, delivering better health care and cost-of-living relief to Australian households.


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