House debates

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Questions without Notice

Health Care

3:02 pm

Photo of Andrew LamingAndrew Laming (Bowman, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Health. Will the minister update the House on how a stronger economy enables the government to support, through the listing of new medicines on the PBS, Australian patients living with severe inflammatory spinal arthritis? What are the risks and what is at stake from alternative approaches to the supply of medicines, as recommended by the experts?

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

I want to thank the member for Bowman, in particular for his continuing work as an ophthalmologist, where he provides voluntary services to patients, free of charge, in the South Brisbane area on a periodic basis. As well as that, he has been a longstanding advocate for better access to more medicines for patients around the country. He's right, though, that there are risks to the continuous supply of new medicines. He knows that because he's seen the history from 2011, when, in the very budget papers of that year, Labor declared:

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

Just to remind the House, these were medicines for deep vein thrombosis, for in vitro fertilisation, for severe asthma and for schizophrenia, amongst other things. I asked myself, 'Who would have been the decision-makers who stopped the listing of new medicines?' Of course, the Treasurer of the day was the member for Lilley, now elected as the president of the Labor Party, so he is in charge of the party. But I was wondering who the Assistant Treasurer was at that time who was responsible for that decision. I was reminded that the Assistant Treasurer when Labor stopped listing new medicines is now the Leader of the Opposition. The current Leader of the Opposition, the would-be Prime Minister of Australia, was present at the table when Labor decided to stop listing new medicines for asthma, for deep vein thrombosis, for IVF and for schizophrenia, amongst other things. So there's a simple question for the Leader of the Opposition: will he apologise now to those patients who were denied medicines on his watch? Will he apologise, and, if not, will he explain why he deliberately made a decision to deny them medicines? The correct answer is that Labor could not manage the budget, but nor could they care about the patients.

By contrast, we have made a decision and have just listed Simponi, a medicine which is going to help with chronic inflammatory spinal disease. I met a beautiful young man, Casey, who was unable to get out of bed; now, he is back training with Subiaco in the WAFL, running, because has been given compassionate access to this medicine. Simponi will be available on the PBS from 1 December but is already available on a compassionate basis, because of a deal we've struck, for 4,000 patients, saving them $15,000 a year, but, above all else, giving them access to a medicine which will transform their lives for the better.