House debates

Thursday, 30 March 2006

Statements by Members


9:48 am

Photo of Anthony ByrneAnthony Byrne (Holt, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to give this chamber an update on the struggle of Maree Bissels. Maree is a very brave woman who is suffering from HER2-positive breast cancer. She came to this place in February this year with a petition compiled by her from 10,467 citizens expressing their frustration about the slowness in the procedure to fast-track Herceptin, a drug believed to be responsible for the successful treatment of people with HER2 cancers, onto the PBS. I would like to give you an update, as I said, and Maree has asked that I read into the Hansard a record of how she has been going. She says:

I am writing to you in regard to my Herceptin Campaign petitions. Since the end of Feb when I gave you 10,500 signatures to present in Parliament, I have collected 8,000 more.

In fact, it was in the space of a week. She goes on:

These signed petitions are coming from all around Australia now. What I am concerned about is everyone that needs to start Herceptin now ...

She goes on to say that no tests have been done to show results. She says that people who are now paying for the drug are effectively disadvantaged as a consequence of it not being listed on the PBS. She is complaining about the fact that it will take some length of time for it to be listed on the PBS. She says:

Waiting until June may not seem long but even that could ... cost them $25,000. That is crazy! Just writing this letter upsets me because we are talking about giving people a chance to live. This financial burden on people is too much to bear and for most people impossible to even think of getting. Others, like myself, are struggling to scrape up payments.

What Maree is saying is that it is going to cost her about $95,000 to be successfully treated with this drug. At her stage of treatment, she is running out of money and, as a consequence of running out of money, she will no longer be able to access this treatment.

I say in this place that, if we are a humane and civilised community, we should be trying to ease the suffering of people like Maree and trying to do what we can in this place and elsewhere to fast-track this drug onto the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. It is a very difficult issue to discuss. I have met Maree; she is a good person. What I would ask of this place at this time is that we collectively exercise as much pressure as possible on the government and on the TGA to fast-track this so that many women like Maree will not have to suffer and will be able to continue their treatment of a life-threatening illness. (Time expired)