House debates

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Questions without Notice

Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

2:32 pm

Photo of Chris CrewtherChris Crewther (Dunkley, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is for the Minister for Health. Will the minister update the House how the government's actions to build a stronger economy enable us to subsidise new treatments for Australian patients such as those living with spinal muscular atrophy—like Ally Clarke in my electorate—or melanoma without raising taxes? Is the minister aware of any alternative approaches to the supply of treatments recommended by the medical experts?

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

I thank the member for Dunkley for his question. In fact, the Prime Minister and I had the pleasure of meeting with Ally Clarke, 10 years old, and her mother, Georgia Clarke, at Frankston a little while ago. After being notified that they would be able to access Spinraza, what Ally's mother, Georgia, said about this beautiful brave little girl who has spinal muscular atrophy was: 'We've basically been given our daughter's life back and it's amazing. It's the best feeling in the world.' I'm delighted to be able to update the House that recently, following the treatments—the infusions which this House authorised and supported through the budget because of a strong economy—Georgia advised Chris: 'Ally has experienced huge increases in independence. She has more endurance and increased participation in school. It has contributed to her nutrition, enabling her to increase her appetite and eat better, increasing her strength, and keep up with her peers.' That's why we do what we do. That's why we make the changes to the economy—so we can pay for these medicines.

On Friday, I was fortunate to meet another group of Australians who are benefitting from the medicines that the government is bringing to the people following the recommendations of the medical experts. I met a young landscape gardener, Ben Kearon. Ben has had a real challenge. He was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma. The prognosis was very, very grim. He was put on a trial for Opdivo and Yervoy—a combination of immunotherapies—breakthrough medicines. What he told us on Friday was that earlier this year he had been declared free of tumours. That medicine, which also helped Jarryd Roughead in winning his battle, is now on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. It would otherwise cost $100,000 a year. Eight hundred patients are benefitting from that.

That is what we are working towards as a government. That is what we seek to deliver. You can only do these things with a strong economy. We know that if you don't have a strong economy you can't pay for medicines. That's why it was said by 60 different groups, when the previous government stopped listing medicines, in a petition, 'Affordable medicines and vaccines that save and prolong lives are being denied to some of the most vulnerable, chronically ill Australians.' That is why groups such as Cystic Fibrosis Australia, Diabetes Australia, Heart Support Australia and the Brain Tumour Alliance all sent a message to the previous government that what they did, because they broke the economy and they busted the budget, was completely unacceptable. It will never happen under us, because we don't believe in what they did. It will never happen, because we believe in and will deliver a strong economy.