New Health minister opens up
Greg Hunt reveals why he's happy to be named the new Health minister and what he sees for the future of Australia's health system. Courtesy ABC News 24.
A cystic fibrosis "miracle" drug that would normally cost patients $300,000 a year and a breakthrough rare cancer treatment will become affordable under new Turnbull government subsidies.
Health Minister Greg Hunt says the medicines - among $310 million worth of drugs to be added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme on Monday - will change and save lives.
Kalydeco will for the first time become available to children with cystic fibrosis aged two to five. Children born in Australia with CF today have a life expectancy of just 37 years but the new wonder drug could extend that by as much as two decades.
It has been listed on the PBS since December 2014 but until now has been restricted to patients aged six or over.
For Samantha Fox, whose three-year-old daughter Scarlett suffers from the debilitating genetic lung disease, the listing is "monumental".
"We're ecstatic," said Ms Fox, who lives in Hobart.
"It has given us a new sense of hope about what the future holds for her. She's a very charismatic and intelligent little girl and she's now on a drug that's as close to a cure as we have."
The drug company recently gave Scarlett early access to the drug and already she has more energy. She's eating more, putting on weight and her ever-present cough has begun to subside.
Without the subsidy the treatment would be completely out of the Fox family's reach at $300,000 a year. With the subsidy it will now cost $38.80, or $6.30 for concession card holders.
Mr Hunt has also announced the government will list Blincyto, a treatment for a rare form of acute lymphocytic leukaemia. It will save patients $127,700 per course.
It helps induce and maintain cancer remission to allow stem cell transplant. It works by targeting and encouraging the destruction of lymphoma cells.
The government is also listing a treatment for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, another deteriorative lung disease, which normally costs $39,700 per treatment and will benefit 1470 patients.
It will also subsidise Zinbryta for sufferers of multiple sclerosis.
Nettie Burke from Cystic Fibrosis Australia said Kalydeco will transform the lives of at least 30 Australian families, delaying lung damage to help their children live longer.
"To have a child who's well, who is out of hospital and not in agony - it's a life-changer. It will also have a huge impact on parents looking after these kids by reducing the burden of the disease."
Ms Burke is now fighting for another drug - Orkambi - to be added to the PBS, estimating it could help a further 1000 families. The government says it is making progress on that drug.
Mr Hunt said the Coalition had added about $6 billion of news drugs to the PBS since coming to power in 2013.
"Australia's PBS is one of the foundations of our universal health care system and is the envy of many countries," Mr Hunt said. "The Turnbull government has a rock-solid commitment to Medicare and part of this commitment is ensuring people have access to medicine when they need it. We are delivering on this commitment."