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Tuesday, 8 May 2018
Page: 3264

Spinal Muscular Atrophy

Ms HENDERSON (Corangamite) (14:36): My question is to the Minister for Health. Will the minister outline to the House how a strong economy enables the government to subsidise life-saving medicine for spinal muscular atrophy patients, including those in my electorate of Corangamite? Is the minister aware of any alternative approaches?

Mr HUNT (FlindersMinister for Health) (14:36): I want to thank the member for Corangamite, who's absolutely right: a strong economy is absolutely critical to guaranteeing essential services. A strong economy helps guarantee essential services such as Medicare, hospital funding, mental health funding, aged-care funding and, of course, the support through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme for life-saving medicines. One of the things that this government has done since coming to office is support life-saving medicines through the PBS—approaching $9 billion of current or soon-to-be listed medicines, such as those outlined by the Prime Minister: Opdivo, for lung cancer, an almost billion-dollar investment by this government; and Keytruda, for Hodgkin lymphoma, again, another potentially life-saving medicine.

On the weekend I was honoured to be joined by the member for Corangamite when we met with the families of beautiful, young children with spinal muscular atrophy. This condition is, in many cases, a tragic condition. It's the largest genetically inherited condition in terms of the taking of lives of children under two years of age. It's something which until now has had very little opportunity for treatment and very little opportunity for giving parents real and profound hope. I was honoured, with the member for Corangamite, to be able to announce that as of 1 June, but with immediate compassionate access for every patient in Australia, the drug Spinraza will now be made available for the treatment of spinal muscular atrophy. This is a drug which would otherwise have cost families $367,000—beyond the reach of virtually every Australian family. What that means is that these families and these parents have hope, have the ability to give their children a better quality of life and, if delivered early enough, have the ability to have a long life and a full life. That is profound.

Only a strong economy allows you to deliver those services. The proof is that not everybody is able to deliver those services. When the other side was in power, they delayed or denied the listing of seven fundamental drugs. They didn't do it because they were evil; they did it because they were economically incompetent. They were economically incompetent and they could not afford to fund the PBS. That's what this budget is about.

The SPEAKER: The minister will resume his seat.

Mr Hunt: That's what a strong economy is—

The SPEAKER: The minister will resume his seat! The minister does not have the call! The member for Ballarat on a point of order.

Ms Catherine King: In order for the minister to be relevant—

The SPEAKER: The member for Ballarat will resume her seat.

Ms Catherine King: perhaps you can explain why you're delaying listing—

The SPEAKER: The member for Ballarat is warned! The minister will resume his seat. The member for Ballarat has been warned on a couple of occasions now for approaching the dispatch box and not stating a point of order. I want to make it perfectly clear that next time it happens she will be ejected. The minister has the call for the remaining 19 seconds.

Mr HUNT: When they were last in government, they denied the listing of medicines for asthma, schizophrenia and pulmonary conditions. So, this is about whether or not you can run the economy and guarantee essential services. That's what we're doing and that is real compassion. (Time expired)