C2 – Sub Plenary – Cancer drug access

Access to cancer medicines has become a complex and emotive issue in Australia to which there is no easy answer. This session will explore the significant challenges associated with funding cancer medicines in Australia, including those associated with the registration and reimbursement processes, and discuss possible solutions for the future.

ABSTRACT:

Access to cancer medicines has become a politically-charged and emotive issue in Australia, raising many complex questions for which there are no easy answers. Its resolution is made all the more difficult by the fact that there is rarely a cure for late-stage cancer, and that many new late-stage cancer medicines can be expensive and can add precious time to a patient’s life.   A recent report titled “International Comparison of Medicine Usage: Quantitative Analysis”, published by the UK Office of Health Economics1, ranked Australia 12th out of 13th on usage of cancer medicines approved within the last five years, with only New Zealand behind. In late 2014, a Senate Inquiry into the “Availability of new, innovative and specialist cancer drugs in Australia” was established to examine “the timing and affordability of access for patients”, as well as “the operation of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme in relation to such drugs, including the impact of delays in the approvals process for Australian patients”. The Inquiry is expected to report in June 2015.  Few people would argue against patients getting timely access to beneficial cancer medicines at a price they can afford; however, there is a cost. A recent parliamentary analysis of pharmaceutical spending in Australia shows that high-cost medicines account for approximately 22% of the total PBS budget2, costing around $2 billion in the 2013/2014 financial year3,4. This proportion of high-cost drugs is likely to grow, and with many new medicines being introduced to the market, often at a higher cost than older medicines, we need to work out how we are going to fund high-cost medicines into the future.

This session will explore the significant challenges associated with funding cancer medicines in Australia, including those associated with the registration and reimbursement processes, and discuss possible solutions for the future.

Chairperson: Giao Tran, Market access professional

Notes & References

1 O’Neill P and Sussex J (2014). International Comparison of Medicines Usage: Quantitative Analysis. UK Office of Health Economics Report (http://www.abpi.org.uk/our-work/library/industry/Documents/meds_usage.pdf). Accessed 20 March 2015.

2 Excludes expenditure for medicines on the Life Savings Drugs Programme.

3 Wortley S and Karikios D (2015). “Why the public should have a say in high-cost drug subsidies”, The Conversation (http://theconversation.com/why-the-public-should-have-a-say-in-high-cost-drug-subsidies-36214). Accessed 20 March 2015.

4 Department of Parliamentary Services (January 2015). “Growth in expenditure on high-cost drugs in Australia”, Research Paper Series, 2014–15 (http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/
pubs/
rp/rp1415/ExpendCostDrugs). Accessed 20 March 2015.