More pre-Budget good news: $1.3 billion in new medicines to help beat cancer

Photo: Getty Images/ Christopher Furlong.

The Abbott government is allocating $1.3 billion towards new medicines and vaccines as part of the 2015-16 Budget.

Health minister Sussan Ley says that over the next four years, new drug listings on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) will benefit thousands of Australia with debilitating conditions and help tackle diseases such as melanoma, breast cancer and blindness.

“Access to new medicines is crucial if we’re to help Australians beat life threatening diseases such as cancer as well as overcome chronic and degenerative conditions that can rob them of their independence,” she said.

“However, new drugs often come with an expensive price tag often out of reach for many patients.”

Australians have been slapped with huge medical bills recently, especially after Roche, Australia’s largest supplier of oncology drugs, decided to end free, early access to medicines earlier this year.

Roche and Novartis Oncology — the cancer division of the Swiss pharmaceutical giant — said they were no longer able to bear the costs of the medicine and would move towards co-payment arrangements, meaning patients would cover 25% of the cost.

As part of the new package, $628 million will be spent on new-generation drugs to improve the detection, treatment and prevention of cancer. Without government subsidy, the cost to melanoma patients would be $131,300 per treatment, whilst breast cancer patients would face a $82,700 bill.

Australia is one of the slowest countries in the developed world to approve new medicines with cancer patients waiting for an average of 573 days for life-saving drugs.

“Patients in many other OECD countries have 75% or more of the new medicines reimbursed and readily available through Government funding,” said Medicines Australia Chairman, Dr Martin Cross said earlier this year.

Currently, almost $10 billion is spent annually on subsiding drugs on the PBS, with an additional $3 billion worth of new drugs considered for listing. One in every six dollars is spent on cancer treatments.

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