House debates

Thursday, 9 March 2023

Questions without Notice

Melanoma, Health Care

3:01 pm

Photo of Sam LimSam Lim (Tangney, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Health and Aged Care. How is the Albanese Labor government helping Australians who are seeking treatment for melanoma?

Photo of Mark ButlerMark Butler (Hindmarsh, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Health and Aged Care) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Tangney for his question and for joining me at the Southlands Pharmacy in Willetton last month. We were able to talk about, firstly, the fact that he campaigned so hard at last year's election on a promise to deliver cheaper medicines and, secondly, the fact that he has delivered on that promise.

In July, we slashed the maximum price that pensioners and concession card holders would pay across a given year for medicines by 25 per cent. In September, we cut the price of more than 2,000 brands of medicine, putting $130 million back into the pockets of hardworking Australians. In November, the Minister for Social Services gave access to the seniors health card, already, to more than 10,000 self-funded retirees around the country. As members of this House know, on 1 January we delivered the biggest cut to the price of medicines in the 75-year history of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Already, in just the first two months of operation of the new price, the price of 3.2 million scripts has come down, delivering $36 million in savings to hardworking Australians. We are also working very, very hard to make sure that Australian patients have affordable access to the most modern, most cutting-edge medicines available anywhere in the world. Since July, we have made 65 new or amended listings to the PBS to cut the price of the most modern, most effective medicines from, sometimes, tens and tens of thousands of dollars just for one course of treatment to just $30.

Last week, I announced the expanded listing of Opdivo and Yervoy to be used particularly as a combination therapy for recurrent stage 3 or stage 4 malignant melanoma. As members know, Australians tragically lead the world in melanoma diagnosis rates.

Opposition Members:

Opposition members interjecting

Photo of Mark ButlerMark Butler (Hindmarsh, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Health and Aged Care) Share this | | Hansard source

I hear some interjections about melanoma diagnosis. I don't think that's particularly appropriate, because all members of this House know that Australia leads the world in melanoma diagnosis. This new treatment, which would otherwise cost patients more than $10,000 for a course of treatment, now costs just $30, giving new hope to patients like Natalie. Natalie was diagnosed with melanoma when she was 23 weeks pregnant. She had to delay her treatment to protect the health of her baby. Tragically, three days after birth, she was advised that her cancer has spread. But now, with this new treatment, she's able to tell us that she has a bright future ahead.

Cheaper medicines aren't just good for the hip pocket and the household budget—although they are—they're also good for your health and, ultimately, they save lives.