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Wednesday, 17 June 2020
Page: 4732


Mrs WICKS (Robertson) (10:36): I rise to speak in support of the Morrison government's amendments to the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 contained in this bill, the Therapeutic Goods Amendment (2020 Measures No. 1) Bill 2020. The coalition government has a proud record of prioritising the health and wellbeing of all Australians, which has been particularly evident in our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The government has also listed over 2,400 new medicines, worth around $11.6 billion, on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. This has only been possible because of the coalition's prioritisation of the health of Australians and our responsible economic management since 2013. The fact that 30 new or amended medicines are listed each month is indicative of the coalition's focus and commitment to improving the health of all Australians, including people in my electorate of Robertson. This bill strengthens Australia's ability to list medicines on the PBS.

(Quorum formed) It strengthens Australia's ability to list medicines on the PBS, reducing delays for Australians who are trying to access new medicines and navigate regulatory hurdles.

One of the key features of this bill is the harmonisation of the key medical device definitions in Australia with those recently adopted by the European Union. These changes will assist in minimising the delay for Australian consumers in accessing new medical devices as our standards will now be in line with the EU. This means Australians can access world-class and affordable health care sooner. In April 2017 the EU introduced significant reforms for medical devices and in-vitro medical devices. These reforms better address technological and scientific advances in the medical industry over the past 20 years. In considering these new regulations, the Department of Health's expert panel for the review of medicines and medical devices regulations recommended that the regulation of medical devices in Australia should align whenever possible with the EU framework. This bill will support the expert panel's recommendation by updating key medical device definitions, which will clarify regulatory requirements for industry sponsors and manufacturers.

Another significant change this bill will make is to allow the secretary of the Department of Health to provide early, non-binding specific advice to sponsors of medicines about the safety, quality or efficacy of their products. These registerable medicines are typically classified as higher-risk medicines, which are mostly dispensed by prescription and over the counter. As there may not be enough guidance available on these complex medical products, this bill provides a mechanism for sponsors to seek early scientific advice about certain aspects of a medicine before they formally apply to register the medical product on the PBS. This will mean that the time taken to register higher-risk medical products on the PBS, some of which will assist Australians with complex medical needs, will be reduced. It will also provide greater certainty and clarity for sponsors looking to list a promising new medicine.

The bill will also introduce a targeted data-protection regime for access listed medicines, to encourage innovation in Australia's complementary-medicines industry. This provision supports another recommendation of the Department of Health's expert panel. This recommendation suggested that incentives be introduced for medicine sponsors to invest in innovation, which will in turn increase the competitiveness of complementary medicines in Australia.

In my electorate of Robertson I've witnessed firsthand how the Morrison government's strong economic management has benefited those suffering from medical conditions, with them able to access new medicines listed on the PBS. I've also seen why it's important for us to make it easier for Australians to access the medicines they desperately need and to reduce the barriers for sponsors of medicines by applying for their registration on the PBS.

In August last year I was pleased to welcome the Minister for Health, the Hon. Greg Hunt, to the Central Coast to announce the delivery of a third linear accelerator at the Central Coast Cancer Centre. During the minister's visit there we met with a patient receiving treatment for brain cancer. He told us how the Morrison government's listing of Avastin on the PBS dramatically reduced his treatment costs. This is a medication that blocks a cancer cell protein which allows cancers to grow in blood vessels. It starves the protein. Over 900 Australians living with this aggressive form of brain cancer now benefit from Avastin being listed on the PBS. Without the subsidy, it would cost up to $31,200 per course of treatment. Instead, cancer patients like the one that the minister and I met at the Central Coast Cancer Centre now receive prescriptions at the cost per script of only $6.60 for concession card holders and $41 for general patients.

The coalition government's strong record on the economy to date has ensured the continued investment in lifesaving medicines on the PBS. This stands in stark contrast to the last time that Labor was in office, when they deferred listings of new medicines on the PBS. This bill will make it easier for medicines to be listed on the PBS and to ensure Australians receive access to new medical devices sooner. In concluding, I would like to thank the Minister for Health, who I notice is in the chamber, for his ongoing support for the people in my electorate of Robertson who are suffering from severe health conditions. I particularly commend him for his leadership in strengthening Australia's healthcare sector, especially during the current global pandemic.

In closing, this bill makes important amendments to the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 to support the delivery of the highest quality health care for Australians. This bill will assist in decreasing the waiting times for Australians to receive new medical devices as well as reduce the regulatory barriers for medicine sponsors in listing promising new products on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. I commend this bill to the House.