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Monday, 10 September 2018
Page: 57

Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme


Mr HARTSUYKER (Cowper) (14:56): My question is to the Minister for Health. Would the minister update the House on how the government is continuing to be in a financial position to subsidise life-changing medicines such as Orkambi for cystic fibrosis? How does our approach differ from past approaches?


Mr HUNT (FlindersMinister for Health) (14:57): I want to thank the member for Cowper, who has been a great advocate for the listing of Orkambi, a medicine for cystic fibrosis. He does ask whether or not there are alternative approaches and I will deal with that first. The history is that for many years there has been support for the listing of new medicines, with the exception of 2011 when the then government—and I simply quote from their budget papers—said: 'Due to fiscal circumstances, the listing of some medicines would be deferred until fiscal circumstances permit.' What that meant was, 'We can't pay for it so we won't list it.' 'We can't manage the economy'—said Labor in 2011—'so we don't give people access to new medicines for deep vein thrombosis, for IVF, for schizophrenia, for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.' These were their decisions. There are real-world consequences when you can't manage the economy.

Fortunately, we are in a dramatically different place. We have seen a turnaround in the economy under the very careful hand of the coalition, and in particular the Prime Minister. We've seen a million jobs created and that has put the budget in a far stronger position, so that we can guarantee that every medicine that is recommended by the PBAC, we will proceed with and we will make sure that it can be listed.

What I do want to note in particular in relation to the medicine Orkambi for cystic fibrosis is that eight days ago I was privileged to join the Prime Minister in his first major announcement on health, as we recognised that Orkambi had been recognised by the PBAC. Within a few short weeks we were able to list it. It had been raised by the member for Mayo, the Member for Forrest and by those on the other side—indeed I mentioned the member for Lilley previously. This medicine will help 1,200 beautiful young Australian children and young adults get access to life-changing medicine. Overall, it will lead in some cases to an additional 20 years of life, and this is a medicine that would otherwise have cost up to $250,000. Virtually no Australian family could afford $250,000 a year. This medicine in particular will mean that young children have access to a capacity to have a future which they would otherwise not have had. I can't summarise it better than the words of Kate Daly—14 years old and unbelievably eloquent—who met the Prime Minister and me. What she said was: 'That night that Orkambi had been approved, I was a whirl of emotions. I was so happy, so excited and so grateful—so happy that I would have access to a drug that would for the first time stop the slow failure of my lungs. There couldn't have been a better outcome.'