House debates

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Questions without Notice

Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

3:03 pm

Photo of Jason FalinskiJason Falinski (Mackellar, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Health. Will the minister outline to the House how a strong economy enables the government to subsidise life-changing medicines for thousands of Australians living with cancer? Is the minister aware of any different attitudes to subsidising medicines?

Photo of Greg HuntGreg Hunt (Flinders, Liberal Party, Minister for Health) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to thank the member for Mackellar for his question and also his strong advocacy for new medicines and for new medicines being listed on the PBS, as well as his recognition that this can be done only where there is a strong economy. One of the reasons he knows this is that the 2011 budget papers made it absolutely clear that without a strong economy medicines could not be listed, and I will remind the House of that 2011 budget paper, which said:

… given the current fiscal environment, the listing of some medicines would be deferred until fiscal circumstances permit.

Those medicines were for severe asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, deep vein thrombosis, endometriosis, IVF and schizophrenia, amongst other things. Fortunately, fiscal circumstances now permit the listing of every medicine that the medical experts recommend. That is the policy and practice of this government. The fiscal circumstances have created a million extra jobs, transformed the nation's finances and ensured that every medicine that the experts recommend will be listed.

In that context, I was privileged and pleased to announce recently that four new cancer medicines would be listed on the PBS. These include medicines for lymphoma, medicines for leukaemia, and, in particular, medicines to ensure that those dealing with the challenge of chemotherapy will be able to manage it. One important medicine, however, was the listing of Opdivo for head and neck cancer. One of the beneficiaries of a drug trial, Mr David Littlewood, from Queensland, commented in The Australian on 27 July in relation to the listing of a medicine for head and neck cancer:

Immunotherapy was my last chance to tackle terminal cancer … It is a life-saving therapy. I would just be another number if it wasn't for it.

That is the medicine Opdivo. A thousand patients will benefit from that listing. It would have otherwise cost $50,000 a year for each patient. It's something that would not be possible if the fiscal circumstances didn't permit. It's something that would not be possible if the nation's economy was not healthy. It's why we as members of the parliament do our work, and why this government focuses so much on the fact that, if you can get the fiscal circumstances right, you can deliver these new medicines to Australians. That's the right thing to do in government, and it's the right outcome for patients. (Time expired)