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Thursday, 20 September 2007
Page: 205

Mr Murphy asked the Minister for Health and Ageing, in writing, on 8 August 2007:

(1)   Is he aware that mesothelioma is a malignant, incurable cancer directly attributed to asbestos exposure; if not, why not.

(2)   Can he confirm that Alimta is the only pharmacological agent registered by the Therapeutic Goods Administration for the treatment of mesothelioma; if not, why not.

(3)   Is he aware of a randomised control study, which has shown that Alimta (a) slowed disease progression and (b) increased survival for many patients living with mesothelioma; if not, why not.

(4)   Can he confirm that not all mesothelioma patients can obtain access to Alimta through State/Territory workers’ compensation schemes, or may live in a State/Territory without a compensation scheme; if not, why not.

(5)   Will he explain why Alimta is not listed for subsidy on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) for the treatment of mesothelioma when it is the only drug registered to treat mesothelioma and is currently subsidised for people with lung cancer; if not, why not.

(6)   Will he ensure that all Australians have timely and affordable access to Alimta by providing a government subsidy for this treatment, including, but not limited to, listing on the PBS; if not, why not.

Mr Abbott (Minister for Health and Ageing) —The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

(1)   Yes.

(2)   ALIMTA® (pemetrexed disodium) is the only prescription medicine product on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) indicated for the treatment of patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma; and for the treatment of patients with locally advanced or metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer, after prior platinum based chemotherapy. This product was registered on 30 June 2004 and the sponsor of Alimta is Eli Lilly Australia Pty Limited.

(3)   Yes.

(4)   This is a matter for individual state and territory governments.

(5)   Medicines are included in the Schedule of Pharmaceutical Benefits on the advice of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) - an independent, expert advisory body whose members include a range of health professionals and a consumer representative. In considering an application for listing a medicine on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), the PBAC must take into account the medical conditions for which the product has been approved for use in Australia, as well as its clinical effectiveness, cost effectiveness and clinical role compared with other treatments. The PBAC has considered the listing of ALIMTA® (pemetrexed disodium) on the PBS for the treatment of mesothelioma on several occasions. The PBAC rejected these submissions because of unacceptable cost effectiveness. The PBAC acknowledged the severity of the condition and the lack of an effective treatment for mesothelioma. However, at the price proposed in the submissions, even these important factors were insufficient to enable the PBAC to recommend the listing of ALIMTA for this patient group.

(6)   The company has announced that it has made a new submission for ALIMTA® (pemetrexed disodium) for consideration by the PBAC at its November 2007 meeting. The results from this meeting will be made known six weeks after the meeting. All sponsors of medicines for treatment of patients with mesothelioma are welcome to submit information for consideration by the PBAC at any time.