House debates

Thursday, 9 March 2023


Cystic Fibrosis

12:45 pm

Photo of Stuart RobertStuart Robert (Fadden, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Treasurer) Share this | Hansard source

It has been more than 100 days since the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, PBAC, approved the use of Trikafta for young Australians aged between six and 11 suffering with cystic fibrosis. This government unfortunately continues to leave sufferers and their families waiting to access this life-saving treatment.

In Australia, one in more than 2½ thousand babies are born with cystic fibrosis annually, and there is currently no cure. The median life expectancy for Australians with cystic fibrosis is 47 years. Tragically, treatment is out of reach for most Australians. Without the PBS subsidy, around 1,900 Australians are forced to pay more than $250,000 a year for access to this drug, Trikafta. I've been contacted by a doctor in my electorate who is concerned that the Labor government is not acting fast enough to list this medicine on the PBS. Frankly, I'm worried Labor won't do it at all, given their dubious track record in this regard.

The listing of Trikafta would be life changing for many Australians with cystic fibrosis, and I urge the government to make it available on the PBS so patients will only pay a maximum of $42.50 a script or as little as $6.80 on a concession card. Unfortunately, Labor's history with the PBS is clear. When last in government, they couldn't list all medicines recommended by the PBS, let alone make them cheaper, because of their appalling budget management. In fact, Labor stopped listing medicines on the PBS in 2011, cutting funding for mental health and private health insurance rebates because they couldn't manage the economy. My fear is that history is about to repeat itself, with the Treasurer continuing to make excuses instead of plans to manage the economy and plans to get these life-saving and life-changing drugs listed. We've seen cuts to mental health again, and now the government has had more than three months to make this life-saving treatment accessible to suffering children.

In December the health minister tweeted, 'We'll move quickly to make Trikafta available for our younger Australians.' Superb, Health Minister, I agree with you completely, and I hope and pray that you'll honour that and move quickly. I assure the minister that, at a cost of $20,000 per month for treatment, three months down the track is not what families call 'quickly'. Families are now out of pocket $60,000, Health Minister, while they've been waiting for you as the health minister to move quickly. Minister, 'quickly' means quickly. It doesn't mean a hundred days. These are children that are desperately in need of life-changing drugs. Please honour your word: move quickly. Every month that the government waits costs sufferers and their loved ones money and precious time together. Early intervention is the key to help reduce the long-term impact of cystic fibrosis by preventing lung disease before scarring and inflammation take hold.

On our side we've got a strong record of delivering affordable, life-saving medications for all Australians, listing every drug recommended by the PBAC. From 2013, the coalition government approved more than 2,800 new and amended listings—an overall investment by government of $15 billion. I'm very proud that one of the final treatments listed on the PBS on the coalition government's watch was Trikafta for those aged 12 and above. This listing made access to treatment within reach of thousands of Australians with cystic fibrosis. I urge the Albanese government to make this a priority and stop the suffering that these children, who don't have the luxury of time, are currently enduring. I urge the health minister: Honour your word. List it quickly. You've had 100 days. Time is up. List it now. List it this week.


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