House debates

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Statements by Members

Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

9:48 am

Photo of Jennie GeorgeJennie George (Throsby, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Environment and Heritage) Share this | | Hansard source

In January this year I received correspondence from my constituent Michael Boscoscuro seeking my assistance in having the drug Tysabri listed on the PBS. Michael’s letter set out the circumstances of his eventual diagnosis with multiple sclerosis at 18 years of age. Michael was a talented student and a competent sportsman who was expected to achieve dux of his school before he was struck down with MS.

Despite ongoing and severe treatment, he battled on courageously and commenced his Bachelor of Commerce degree at the University of Wollongong in 2006. Due to the aggressive nature of his condition and the limited ability of interferons to stabilise the MS, it was decided that he should start a course of mitoxantrone. His is rapidly approaching the maximum permissible dose of this drug.

In his letter to me, Michael pointed out that Tysabri had been shown in trials to markedly slow the progress of the relapsing remitting form of MS which he suffers. In his words, Michael said this: ‘Tysabri may not be a cure, but it appears to be by far the best treatment available at this time. But unless it is placed on the PBS, its prohibitive cost—that is, around $36,000—would financially cripple most MS sufferers and their families.’

In response to my representations, the government advised that the PBAC had rejected an initial application for listing at its meeting in November 2006. From my discussions with the manufacturer, I understand that a new application was in fact submitted to the PBAC on 4 July. I appeal to the minister to ensure that the consideration of the new application from the manufacturer, Biogen Idec, is expedited.

MS, as we know, is a devastating disease, often hitting people—as it did Michael—in the most productive period of their lives. I understand that there are currently around 18,000 MS sufferers in Australia. Many of these sufferers see the listing of Tysabri on the PBS as light at the end of the tunnel. Clinical trials have shown a remarkable 68 per cent reduction in clinical relapses, and yet its prohibitive cost puts Tysabri beyond the reach of most MS sufferers. I urge the government to act expeditiously and with compassion.