Medicines Australia and medicines industry representatives have appeared before the Senate Inquiry into the availability of new, innovative and specialist cancer drugs in Australia, calling for improvements to create an optimised, modern, and flexible system to ensure access to cancer medicines for Australians.
“Our ability to treat cancer is now far in advance of the system that was designed some time ago, arguably twenty years ago, to provide access to treatments,” Tim James, CEO of Medicines Australia, said in his opening statement to the Senate Committee.
“New, innovative and specialised medicines are a key driver of increases in patient survival, but the waiting time to list cancer medicines on the PBS is taking too long.
“In fact, Australian patients wait six months longer for access to cancer medicines than other types of medicines, and on average 1.6 years from TGA registration to PBS listing.
“We believe cancer patients, namely the one in two Australians who will develop cancer during their lifetime, deserve better.”
Medicines Australia’s submission to the Senate Inquiry provided recommendations including the commitment to expert oncology and consumer input to the decision making process as well as streamlined submission pathways.
“Industry, government, healthcare professionals and consumers need to collaborate and take action now to improve access to cancer medicines,” James said.
Based on the COMPARE report, over the period 2009-2014, Australian patients waited an average 1.6 years (573 days) from registration of a cancer medicine in Australia to its reimbursement on the PBS. This is the longest of any National Health Priority area in Australia.
“This delay in waiting times to get access means some cancer patients may die waiting for subsidised access to innovative and effective cancer medicines,” James said.
“Across the more than two hundred submissions to this inquiry, there is an overwhelming message of concern that maintaining the status quo is not sufficient. There is strong and united desire for system improvements.”
The Medicines Australia panel comprised CEO Tim James, MA Board Member and Managing Director of Pfizer Australia, David Gallagher, and Amgen Australia’s Executive Medical Director, Dr Mark Tennyson. Member companies Novartis Oncology, Merck Sharp & Dohme and Roche also presented to the Committee.
They reiterated Medicines Australia’s recommendations to the inquiry and provided supporting evidence of company experiences in challenges faced providing access to cancer medicines in Australia.