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Tuesday, 2 September 2014
Page: 9382

Mr LAMING (Bowman) (13:46): I rise to make clear that the most expensive drug on Australia's PBS is Lucentis, a medication for injection into the eye that costs the PBS $309 million every year. Treating 140,000 times each year, about 100 ophthalmologists have now racked up around $1.4 billion of Lucentis use since it was approved in 2007. That is all well and good, and I congratulate them on the reduction in blindness as a result. But the House does need to know that there is another drug called Avastin, which for $50 is now clinically identical in its outcomes and has been proven so in the CATT studies and the IVAN studies released last month. Since 2011, it has been absolutely clear that Avastin is equivalent. But the drug company that manufactures both drugs has a conflict of interest through co-ownership of both Roche and Novartis, the latter owning a third of the former. They basically push the expensive $2,000 injection in Australia and refuse to list, refuse to provide, the cheaper version for Australian eye patients. I urge Australians to be aware of that, to be cognisant of that and to encourage ophthalmologists that this is now a safe alternative.

There is a conflict of interest here but the evidence is out. Avastin is safe and equivalent. Our PBS is based upon evidence and if you clear the bar, you can be guaranteed of funding. In the same case, if the evidence is there and the company refuses to list, then it should be available to Australians. A more expensive option should be a matter of the patient paying the extra amount if they choose.