The Abbott Government will invest $1.3 billion listing new medicines and vaccines that will save lives and help thousands of Australians manage debilitating conditions in its 2015-16 Budget.

Minister for Health Sussan Ley announced Tuesday’s Budget would list new drugs to help Australians beat melanoma, breast cancer and blindness on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

The Government will also extend free vaccinations for the debilitating shingles virus to older Australians aged 70 to 79 by listing it on the National Immunisation Program. (see full list below)

Ms Ley said today’s announcement was a key part of the Abbott Government’s commitment to ensuring Australian patients had affordable access to medicines when and where they needed them.

Ms Ley said the listing of $628 million worth of new cancer drugs also formed part of broader package measures to improve the detection, treatment and prevention of cancer in the Budget.

“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,” Ms Ley said.

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

“This $1.3 billion investment over the next four years will deliver thousands of patients more-affordable access to expensive life-saving medicines and vaccines.

“It also further demonstrates the Abbott Government’s commitment to listing approved drugs as fast as possible through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.”

Ms Ley said taxpayers currently invested almost $10 billion annually subsiding drugs on the PBS, with another $3 billion worth of new drugs being considered by Government for listing on the PBS.

This figure is expected to continue to grow in coming years, with the independent Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee meeting three times a year and anticipated to make well over 100 recommendations for new drug listings annually.

“With more and more new drugs in the pipeline in coming years, taxpayers are easily looking at spending $50 billion on making medicines more affordable for patients over the next five years.

“That’s why the Government is proposing sensible measures across the pharmaceutical supply chain that ensure every dollar taxpayers invest in subsidising existing drugs is spent as efficiently as possible so we can continue to invest in new innovative medicines as well.”

“This is a major investment in the pharmaceutical industry.”

One in every six dollars of the almost $10 billion invested in the PBS every year is now spent on cancer treatments.

Trametinib (Mekinist®) for BRAF-positive metastatic melanoma will be listed on the PBS from 1 July 2015 at a cost of $437 million over four years. The combination of trametinib with the already-listed dabrafenib (Tafinlar®) has been demonstrated to be more effective than dabrafenib alone. This new listing will assist approximately 1036 patients with Melanoma. Without Government subsidy these medicines would costs patients over $131,300 per treatment.

Breast Cancer
Pertuzumab (Perjeta®), trastuzumab (Herceptin®) and trastuzumab emtansine (Kadcyla®) for HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer will be listed on the PBS from 1 July 2015 at a cost of $191 million over four years. Around 590 patients per year would benefit from the additional line of therapy provided by Kadcyla where their disease has progressed despite previous treatment, while the combination of Perjeta and Herceptin would provide a more effective treatment option for this cancer than Herceptin alone. Without Government subsidy these medicines would cost consumers over $82,700 per year to access.

Eye Conditions Causing Blindness
Ranibizumab (Lucentis®) is currently listed on the PBS for macular degeneration. From 1 July 2015, this listing will be expanded to include patients with retinal vein occlusion (RVO) and diabetic macular oedema (DME). These additional listings will cost the Government another $541 million over four years, taking the total taxpayer investment in Lucentis to $1.5 billion over four years. This new listing will assist approximately 12,000 patients with DME and 6,000 patients with RVO. Without treatment for these conditions patients can suffer severe loss of vision and blindness, and therefore their lose independence. Without Government subsidy this medicine would cost consumers over $10,000 per year.

Zostavax®, a vaccine for the prevention of herpes zoster (shingles) in persons aged 70-79 years, will also be subsidised through the NIP. It is estimated the new listing will cost over $100 million over four years. This new listing will help vaccinate up to 240,000 older Australians on an on-going basis each year and 1.4 million individuals through a five-year catch-up program. Without Government subsidy this vaccine would cost consumers over $200 per dose of vaccine.

All PBS listings are subject to final arrangements being met by the suppliers of the medicine, including risk share arrangements.

Details of the listings will be published in the Schedule of Pharmaceutical Benefits, which is updated monthly and accessible through the PBS website.