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Thursday, 17 September 2015
Page: 7191


Senator SIEWERT (Western AustraliaAustralian Greens Whip) (16:22): I present the report of the Community Affairs References Committee on the availability of cancer drugs in Australia, together with the Hansard record of proceedings and documents presented to the committee.

Ordered that the report be printed.

Senator SIEWERT: I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

I will only speak very quickly to this because I know the chamber has other business to deal with before 4:30. This is an extremely complicated matter. We heard from a wide range of witnesses and got a number of submissions, and at this time I would like to take the opportunity to thank most sincerely those who gave us a written submission and the witnesses who presented before the committee, including those who presented their personal experiences. They were deeply personal and moving accounts that gave us a much better insight into the problems being faced. It is quite clear that the system is not moving now as fast as is needed to address the ever-escalating rate of development of specialised cancer drugs and also different uses of drugs. The system is not moving as quickly as is necessary to register drugs and make them available and to have them considered for the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme through the PBAC process. We detail quite extensive evidence that was presented about that, and we have made three recommendations.

While three recommendations does not sound enormous, recommendation 1 is quite a large recommendation— the committee recommends that the Australian government initiate a comprehensive review of the operation of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee and this review should include pathways for sponsors, operation assessment processes including enhancement of engagement with sponsors and other stakeholders, and ensuring that consumers and clinicians are more involved and have a more substantial role. There are some quite specific recommendations about what a review should look at.

The point here is that we are not being overly critical of the process, we are just saying that this is very complicated. Technology and innovation is moving very quickly and we need a process that is more responsive given that cancer drugs are being much more specialised for specific cancers now—we have rare cancers that we need to look at accessibility for. I urge the government to look at the report. I commend it to the Senate and I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.