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Wednesday, 24 October 2018
Page: 10953

Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

Mr MORTON (Tangney) (14:53): My question is to the Minister for Health. Will the minister update the House on how a stronger economy enables investment in new, life-changing medicines and improves the affordability of private health insurance? What would be the outcome for those relying on the supply of those medicines, recommended by experts, if different approaches were pursued?

Mr HUNT (FlindersMinister for Health) (14:53): I want to thank the member for Tangney, who is a great advocate for new medicines being listed on the PBS. I was honoured to join him recently in his electorate, at Fiona Stanley Hospital, where we announced support for Simponi, a medicine to assist those with the agonising condition of spinal arthritis. More than that, he knows that you can only continue to list medicines if there's a strong economy, if the budget is able to pay for it—if we aren't facing a crisis.

I am delighted to be able to inform the House that we have announced today that $80 million will be invested in the listing of two new medicines for chronic eye conditions. In particular, we are supporting 4½ thousand Australians with eye conditions for blocked veins in the retina and also for macular degeneration. These medicines—Ozurdex and Lucentis—would otherwise have cost in one case $5,000 and in the other case $7,000 a year and would have been beyond the reach of many elderly patients, of many patients with lower incomes. So this is literally giving the gift of better sight and potentially saving sight of patients because of those investments. I also know that we have maintained that throughout our time in government.

One of the claims made yesterday by the member for Ballarat was that we had in some way deferred the listing of a whooping cough medicine. I thought, 'That doesn't seem right, but I'm going to go and check the facts, because I'm not going to take what the member for Ballarat said on face value.' And do you know what? I was right to check the facts, because what the member for Ballarat said was that the PBAC recommended that the whooping cough vaccine for pregnant women be listed in July 2016. No, it didn't. It said that, provisionally, there had to then be a critical study by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation—some of the most respected medical professionals in the country. And do you know what? They did that with their consideration in February and October 2017 and provided their final advice to the PBAC. The PBAC made their recommendation in February 2018. We announced our listing in May 2018 and we delivered it on 1 July 2018. The member for Ballarat misled the House. I'm not saying it was deliberate; I am saying it was incompetent.

The SPEAKER: The minister will resume his seat for a second. The Manager of Opposition Business on a point of order.

Mr Burke: The minister's making a claim that should be made only by direct motion. I ask him to withdraw.

Government members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Members on my right, I don't need your assistance. An identical point came up from the other side by the Leader of the House. I've made it very clear: unless the term 'deliberately mislead' is used, that doesn't apply. The minister is in order. The minister has the call for 10 seconds.

Mr HUNT: The member for Ballarat may want to approach the box and apologise for misleading the House.