House debates

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Questions without Notice

Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

2:42 pm

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

My question is to the Minister for Health. Will the minister update the House on how a strong economy enables the government to subsidise new treatments for Australian patients living with leukaemia, like Fiona in Seaford in my electorate of Dunkley? How would a weaker economy, through higher taxes, put these subsidies at risk?

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

I want to thank the member for Dunkley, who has been a great advocate for patients such as Fiona. Fiona has been battling chronic myeloid leukaemia. She has been supported under the PBS with medicines that would otherwise cost over $60,000 a year. We heard yesterday that he's also been a great advocate for patients such as Ally Clarke—and Spinraza. She has been supported under the PBS with her spinal muscular atrophy battle, with extraordinary steps forward. Also, the member for Dunkley has been advocating for patients right across the spectrum in relation to new medicines.

On Friday, I was fortunate to meet with Geoff Carson, who is a 70-year-old former engineer, having worked with the CSIRO for over 30 years. He's been battling acute myeloid leukaemia. It is a condition that can have catastrophic impacts. It's a cancer of the blood and of the bone marrow. In particular, he has been given early access to Rydapt, a medicine we have now made available, as of Saturday, under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. This medicine will help 200 patients, and it is potentially life saving or life changing. It's a medicine that goes to the very heart of what this parliament aspires to achieve through a strong economy, through compassion and through action, all being brought together. The PBS in that respect represents the very best of what this parliament can achieve when we put the country in a position where it's able to pay for those actions. In particular, Geoff was excited and delighted that other patients would have access to that which is helping him with his journey and his battle and his life. Whether it is pancreatic cancer or neuroendocrine tumours, which are also supported with other medicines, these are the types of things which we are able to support. I am pleased, proud and determined about the fact that this government has made the commitment that, if the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee recommends it, we will list the medicines that they bring forward. That is our commitment. We know, though, that it can only be done with a strong economy. We know that that has not always been the case, sadly. In 2011—

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The Manager of Opposition Business on a point of order.

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Manager of Opposition Business (House)) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Speaker, in terms of your role, with the dignity of the House, I want to draw attention to this answer. If it goes to the point of claiming that only one side of politics is concerned about people with leukaemia and only one side would make decisions in favour of leukaemia drugs—and it has happened before—I am giving the minister a chance to not go there.

Mr Hill interjecting

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Bruce is warned. To the Manager of Opposition Business: I understand the point he is seeking to make, but I'm here to judge things. I understand he is trying to be helpful from his point of view, but we can't have a situation where people rise to the dispatch box because they are worried about something they think might be said.

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

That is not a claim I would make. This is a matter that matters to everybody. But the important thing is these things can only ever be achieved when a country is in a position to fund, to support, to commit and to pay for these most important medicines. That's what we say proudly we've done and we will continue to do.