Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the addition of lung cancer drug Tagrisso to the government’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) on Sunday.
Tagrisso is used to treat adults with a type of cancer called ‘non-small cell lung cancer’. It works by stopping cancer cells with the ‘Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR)’ T790M mutation from growing and multiplying.
Around 400 people are expected to benefit from the move, which will see the drug subsidised to just $40, or as low as $6 per script for concession patients, when it is made available on February 1.
Speaking at Ringwood Private Hospital alongside Health Minister Greg Hunt, Morrison said he was “committed to making decisions that make a difference to Australians”.
“People say to me ‘why are you always talking about a strong economy, what does that matter to me?’ This is how it matters,” he said.
“The reason I am so passionate about making sure our economy is strong is because it means we can announce today that lung cancer drug Tagrisso has been listed on the PBS, which means a drug that would cost $8,000 is now going to cost $40.30 and jut over $6 per script. This drug was costing people who are on it more than $80,000 dollars a year. This is why you have a strong economy.”
.@ScottMorrisonMP: The reason I am so passionate about making sure our economy is strong is because it means we can announce today that lung cancer drug Tagrisso has been listed on the PBS.
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) January 20, 2019
However reaction to the news was mixed, as many congratulated the prime minister on adding the drug to the PBS, while others questioned the timing of the announcement ahead of this year’s federal election.
Others questioned why Morrison was the one to make the announcement, as opposed to the Health Minister who was in attendance in Melbourne alongside him.
One user commented: “It’s a pre-election miracle!!!” While another wrote: “Stop politicising all these PBS announcements. I don’t think I ever recall a PM announcing drugs that get listed as much as this clown.”
However one user suggested that people give them PM credit, saying: “This is good news. Give some credit when it’s due. All I hear these days is criticism for the sake of criticism.”
The Australian Government’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) provides reliable, timely and affordable access to a wide range of medicines for all Australians.
Today’s news follows an announcement made by Minister Hunt at the end of last year that there would be a “price blitz” on the cost of life-saving medication, following the release of the Coalition’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook.
“The recent 2018–19 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) invests a further $1.4 billion in new medicines, saving sick Australians hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year,” Hunt said in a statement at the time.
“Our strong economic management means we are providing Australian patients with access to life-saving and life-changing medicines quicker than ever before. We are now making on average one new or amended PBS listing every single day.”