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Transcript of interview with Leon Byner: 5AA: 28 May 2018: more medicines added to the PBS; Newspoll; by-elections; company tax cuts; reducing medical costs

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Authorised by Greg Hunt MP, Liberal Party of Australia, Hastings, Victoria.

The Hon. Greg Hunt MP Minister for Health


28 May 2018



Topics: More medicines added to the PBS; Newspoll; by-elections; company tax cuts; reducing medical costs

LEON BYNER: Greg, good morning and thanks for joining us.

GREG HUNT: Good morning, Leon.

LEON BYNER: Tell us about this COPD treatment.

GREG HUNT: So, COPD is called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Most people would know it as bronchitis or emphysema. They’re actually a series of conditions that fall under COPD. A new medicine that comes on from 1 June - so, it goes on to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme - called Trelegy.

What that essentially means is that it brings together a series of different medicines into a single inhaler and it also means that instead of roughly $1200 a year, people will now be able to get it for $6.40 or $39.50.

What the doctors said to me yesterday was that in their clinical trials or their tests, they’ve been able to reduce hospitalisations by a third. So that’s incredibly important for the patients and (inaudible).

LEON BYNER: So this is, just let me get this right because I know there are people with asthmatic conditions listening who might think it applies to them, does it?

GREG HUNT: No, COPD is different to asthma. The two most prominent conditions that people will know - bronchitis and emphysema, and that all up, up to 600,000 Australians will benefit from this particular medicine.

Authorised by Greg Hunt MP, Liberal Party of Australia, Hastings, Victoria.

So, an incredibly important development and at the end of the day, when you think of why we pay taxes, this is the sort of thing that most people would look to and say, wow, that’s a great investment.

Only get there if you’ve got a strong economy, that you’ve got a budget in good shape; you can protect the economy and protect people and it’s just a great outcome to see that it will make a big difference to so many people’s lives.

LEON BYNER: Alright, let’s talk about the next one - for type 2 diabetes. Trulicity, tell us about this.

GREG HUNT: So, Trulicity’s a new injectable pen. So, if you think of an EpiPen, instead of having needles, it’s a pen which you put up against your tummy, click the end, it will make a small prick, and then it will click off after a couple of seconds.

I saw the doctors do it yesterday and instead of multiple injections during the course of the week and sometimes during the course of a day for type 2 diabetics that fall within this particular need, it’s generally injected on a weekly basis, a single use, and it will make a big difference to compliance and the ability for people to be able manage their medicine.

And of course, otherwise it would cost patients an additional $1700 per year. So, it’s a big financial saving, but also much easier to use and therefore better outcomes.

LEON BYNER: There’s another big one, which can save people around nearly $16,000 a year, and that’s for patients who get ulcerative colitis, which is a terribly painful thing. Simponi, tell me about that.

GREG HUNT: So, Simponi is for, as you say, ulcerative colitis. That’s a form of inflammatory bowel disease. So, it can be just agonising and a lot of people can be embarrassed.

I met a patient yesterday who said that she’d been a little bit embarrassed about seeking help, but once she started to talk to her doctor she understood that this is normal and so again, a much more effective medicine and for patients it would have cost just over $16,000 per year, beyond the reach of the vast majority of Australians.

And so it’s a better quality medicine, but now it’s also within the reach of every Australian. What these medicines will now cost is $6.40 per script for concession card holders or $39.50 per script for people who aren’t on concession.

LEON BYNER: Is this Simponi injectable or is it a tablet?

GREG HUNT: Look, to be honest, we didn’t go through that yesterday. So, I better check my chief medical officer says to me: Greg, if in doubt refer to the chief medical officer. So, I’ll get back to you on that.

LEON BYNER: And there’s another one called Cabometyx. Tell me about this.

Authorised by Greg Hunt MP, Liberal Party of Australia, Hastings, Victoria.

GREG HUNT: So, this one, it’s a new treatment for patients with kidney cancer and I met a patient yesterday, Gill, and he said it’s likely to make a difference, an older Australian.

A difference as to whether or not he could walk his daughter down the aisle early next year. So, the particular type of cancer is called renal cell carcinoma, but think of it as an advanced kidney cancer. It would be $130,000 a year.

LEON BYNER: $130,000?

GREG HUNT: Virtually nobody other than a very fortunate few could afford that and this is likely to support 500 patients each year. So, it’s part of the reason we talk about lifesaving and life-protecting drugs, and this really will make a difference.

And when I spoke to the doctor, when I spoke to the patient, Gill, yesterday you could see that there was a sense of hope and his life, which would otherwise be cut short, is likely to be extended very significantly.

LEON BYNER: I’ve got to ask you about the latest Newspoll, which shows the Coalition - if there was an election - would lose. It is the 33rd loss in a row: 52-48 in favour of Labor. But of course, the Prime Minister, his popularity is soaring again.

So are we saying that this is what the government’s going to rely on - that Malcolm Turnbull’s personal approval will be enough to get you over the line? Is that what you’re hoping for?

GREG HUNT: Look, there are probably three big things. One is that you’ve got to have a really strong plan for the economy and that’s what helps allow the businesses to create a million new jobs and now we’ve set out (inaudible) the next million jobs.

The second thing is that then allows you to deliver services like the PBS and these new drugs. And the third is, of course, that when you compare the two leaders, the trust in Malcolm Turnbull is continuing to grow and that’s on the basis of the delivery and the way he’s conducted it, and trust in Bill Shorten is literally collapsing.

And I think the more people see of Bill Shorten the more they actually understand that he doesn’t have a good history of trust in his professional life so far and when you look at the games they’re playing with the Constitution, and South Australia are now having to go through a by-election in Mayo, where you’ve got the amazing Georgina Downer running.

I know her well. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant candidate. But frankly, this could all have been done last year but for Mr Shorten tried to hold the whole Constitution to ransom for a political game and people are seeing that, I think.

LEON BYNER: Now, the poll also shows that about 60 per cent of people or more of Australians support the company tax cuts. Now, I know the Senate’s going to consider the legislation soon. Are you hopeful that a deal can be done with the independents to get the policy passed?

Authorised by Greg Hunt MP, Liberal Party of Australia, Hastings, Victoria.

GREG HUNT: Yes, I remain optimistic and hopeful and that’s based on both the merit of the case and this is ultimately about being competitive for Australian firms and therefore giving them the capacity to create more jobs, and that’s really what it’s about.

And secondly, having worked with the Senate on many occasions on many things, there are negotiations which are difficult and up and down and until something’s across the line, everybody will presume it’s not.

But I remember abolishing the carbon tax, and there was very, very significant resistance from Clive Palmer’s team, and then we just worked with them, we got there, we got it across the line and we delivered a massive change to the cost of living and to electricity prices - the biggest single reduction in electricity prices on record, and that was deemed to be impossible by many of the experts, and yet we got there.

So, I’d always bank on the negotiating skills of the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and Mathias Cormann.

LEON BYNER: Alright, I want to ask you also, you’ve talked about a number of good things on the PBS which are going to save a huge amount of money for many patients, which is great.

The latest on private health, because we know that there are significant pressures on these companies, which are putting the premiums up much higher. Any progress on that?

GREG HUNT: Yes. In fact, two very important things. One is we’re working with all of the different parts of the health system on a simplification process.

So, as everybody knows, what’s in and what’s out. It’s called gold, silver, bronze and basic, and we’re making huge progress on agreement on that. That just means that you will know in one page what’s in my private health cover and what’s not in my private health cover.

LEON BYNER: What about the cost?

GREG HUNT: And that helps people to understand what policy they should choose. Secondly, in the course of the next year, there are further reductions in the cost of protheses or devices which will help push the pressure down.

There will be discounts for young people of up to 10 per cent, which is a very, very significant step forward, and that in turn means that if there are more people involved then that helps with the cost pressures.

And where we had all of the leaders in the private health insurance together with the government on Friday to work on the next round of ways of taking costs out of private health.

The second thing is I’ve tasked the chief medical officer, Brendan Murphy, who I mentioned before, to deal with the question of pushing to get out-of-pocket down for people who aren’t covered by bulk billing.

Authorised by Greg Hunt MP, Liberal Party of Australia, Hastings, Victoria.

We’re at record bulk billing levels, which mean no costs, but for those outside there are challenges and on the weekend the AMA, I believe, voted near unanimously to support strong federal action on out-of-pocket. So I really welcome that.

LEON BYNER: Alright. Well, we’ll keep you in the loop on this, Greg. Thank you. That’s the Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, with some pretty important developments in the health area.