Topics; The listing of new medicines on the PBS for Australian patients
Look, thank you everybody for joining us today at this magnificent Monash Health Centre.
This centre is about saving lives and protecting lives and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme is about saving lives and protecting lives.
To have people such as Professor Phil Bardin, to have Heather from the Lung Foundation, to have all of our medical professionals, Anne Belcher, head of GSK here in Australia, and above all else, our patients.
Patients such as Gil, Chris and Steph, all of our wonderful patients, whether it’s in relation to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, whether it’s with regards to diabetes, whether it’s ulcerative colitis, or in particular renal cancer, kidney cancer, these new medicines that we’re announcing today are about saving lives and protecting lives.
From the first of June the Commonwealth will now list on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme new medicines for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Trelegy, which will help up to 600,000 Australians access a simpler to use, easier and more effective medicine.
This can mean that they have better outcomes. And chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is in many ways like breathing through a straw and Australians will literally be able to breathe better, breathe more easily and have a better quality of life.
I know the trial that Phil has been doing has seen up to a third less hospitalisations, so it’s good for the patient, it’s good for the health system, but above all else it’s giving patients peace of mind and the ability to manage their own condition.
Further than that, we have new medicine for type 2 diabetes.
Instead of multiple injections over the course of the week, one single, simple EpiPen-like injection, which for type 2 diabetics can make their life easier, their compliance with medicines easier and, of course, make very significant savings.
In addition, Cabometyx. This is a new medicine that would otherwise cost renal or kidney cancer patients $130,000 a year.
Virtually no Australian family could afford $130,000 a year, so this medicine, as Gil said, is a life saver. And to have it available means that families can access the care that they would otherwise not be able to receive.
And then, finally, ulcerative colitis. And by being able to support new medicines for ulcerative colitis, a cost of what would otherwise be $15,000, simply beyond the reach of, again, virtually every family, we’re giving people their lives back.
Supporting the PBS is something you can only do if you’ve got a strong economy and a plan to have that economy, and our commitment is to list every medicine that the medical experts recommend through the PBAC should be listed.
We’re doing that today. And indeed on the first of June we’ll also have the new medicine for spinal muscular atrophy and the new medicines for breast cancer, which will help young Australians and Australian women have their lives saved or improved or extended.
I might ask Phil if he’d like to add something on COPD and his incredible work.
Thank you. Well, the new treatment has the potential to help many of our patients, both with their symptoms but also to prevent these lung attacks that often are extremely distressing for both our patients and their families.
The new treatment is a three-in-one therapy that makes it simple to use and that will be, I think, effective in many of our patients with more severe disease. We hope that it will be used appropriately, not for every patient with COPD, but particularly for those patients who merit this. And for us it’s great to have another agent available to treat COPD.
How does this drug work, in simple terms?
It has two actions. It firstly would act as a sort of a preventer, preventing inflammation in the lung. But then it also has an action on the muscle in the lung pipes and helps the lung to relax, in response to the triggers in COPD that make the lung tighten up and have patients have lung attacks.
And how much of a benefit is it going to be to your patients?
It’s not a cure for COPD, of course. But it will help many people who have severe symptoms and who would tend to get these attacks, have to rush to hospital and become very distressed.
How do you get this disease?
Most of it’s caused by smoking in the past. Many of our patients have smoked in the past, stopped 20 or 30 years ago, but unfortunately now with the results of that smoking a long, long time ago. So it’s a disease with effects that have a long tail, often long after people have stopped smoking.
How common is it?
It affects about a million plus Australians. If you count their families, who are often distressed by the illness, you could double that. So it’s a very common illness and it will remain very frequent in our clinics for the next 10, 20 years because of the long-tail of the disease.
In terms of the spectrum you have available to treat this disease, how highly regarded is this drug? How much were you pushing to see it on the PBS?
Well it is state of the art, really, and it is now the standard of care for severe COPD with frequent exacerbations. So if none of the other treatments work that we usually try first, this would be the treatment that could make a significant difference.
I might ask Heather from the Lung Foundation and Anne from GSK if they wanted to add anything?
Well I’m very pleased to be here on behalf of one in seven Australians over 40 who has COPD. COPD is the fifth leading cause of death in Australia and, importantly, it’s the second leading cause of avoidable hospital emissions but the impact that the individual patient experiences is particularly marked. It comes up slowly.
Symptoms like breathlessness and cough come up very gradually and can be ignored for a long period of time. But the disease progresses to the point where the symptoms will prevent those with COPD doing simple daily activities like crossing a street with ease or hanging laundry, playing with grandchildren.
And, importantly, the ultimate problem of having an exacerbation and ending up in hospital is particularly distressing and for a patient that goes into hospital with an exacerbation, the risk of dying is even greater than those who are admitted to hospital with a heart attack.
So, what we’re trying to get with treatment is to reduce those symptoms and keep people out of hospital, and so today’s announcement will have an important role for those who have severe COPD.
Thank you. I’d like to start by thanking Minister Hunt, Professor Bardin and Heather Allen from the Lung Foundation for adding their comments to the announcements today. I’d also like to thank Monash Health for hosting us here today.
It’s actually very appropriate that we’re here at Monash Health because they were a significant contributor in the clinical studies that actually led to the licensure and availability of this product.
GSK are very excited and very proud to be bringing this medicine to people with COPD in Australia.
As Minister Hunt said, it’s often described as breathing through a straw and, as Heather just told us, it actually has a significant impact on everyday activities for these people, like being able to climb the stairs, going to the shops, getting dressed or showering.
So it’s these people that we’re focused on in our clinical trials, in developing this medicine, and it’s these people that we hope to help in bringing this medicine to Australia. So thank you once again to the speakers. Very much appreciate you helping us with this significant milestone today. Thank you.
Happy to take any questions.
Why these four drugs?
So these are the drugs that have come through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee. They’re applied for by proponents. They’re assessed by the medical experts and, on average, we’re listing almost one new drug per day.
So, what we see is, if the medical experts recommend the new medicines we’ll list them and that’s one of the most important commitments as a government we can make – that we’ve made space.
We’ve ensured that the Budget is strong and as a consequence of that we’re able to commit, as the previous government couldn’t, to list every new medicine that the medical experts recommend.
What’s the cost to the Government for these drugs?
So it’s quite interesting. All up, there’s a cost in the order of $10 million, and that’s because sometimes the new medicines will replace older, less effective, more expensive medicines. So, some of the medicines are more expensive. So of them are actually save money, as well as the fact that all of them help patients.
Can I ask you something about Barnaby Joyce accepting payment for interview. What do you think about his decision to accept that payment?
Well, firstly, I’m here with you for free today. The second thing is that it’s a matter for them, so I won’t provide a commentary. I’ll just note that it’s an individual matter for them.
But the principle of a politician accepting money for an interview, regardless of who it is or what it’s for, what do you think about that?
Look, on this occasion I’ll leave it for them.
I am absolutely certain, 100 per cent certain, that it’s not a position that anyone in the Cabinet would take and, as for their particular family, I don’t think it’d be appropriate of me to comment on those circumstances.
All right, thank you very much.