New cancer alliance launches as its uncovered Aussie patients are self-funding treatments to the tune of $200M

The National Oncology Alliance will champion a health system that keeps up with science to provide all cancer patients with the treatment, support and care they deserve, and can afford.

  • Access to treatment shouldn’t be determined by bank balances: A new survey of Australian Oncologists has found major problem with access to cancer medicines; that over 6,000 Australian’s are unable to afford the treatments recommended by their clinicians.
  • Millions forked out in out of pocket costs: At least 3,500 patients are self-funding non-PBS listed cancer medicines at an average of $60,000 annually, totalling over $200 million per year.1
  • PBAC reform must put patient outcomes in the hands of clinicians: The system must adapt to advances in research to ensure patients have timely access to the best treatment options.
  • We have a responsibility to get this right: There are more life changing possibilities at the fingertips of patients than ever before. Policies must give patients the best shot to extend and improve their lives.

SYDNEY, 14 AUGUST 2018: The National Oncology Alliance (NOA) – a first-of-its kind collaboration – is calling for new PBAC processes to be adopted that ensure our health system keeps up with rapid advances in science. NOA is calling for these changes ahead of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) meeting on August 17, in response to the growing need for Australians to access innovative treatments for all cancers.

NOA is a collective of more than 100 members, including patients and carers, patient groups, clinicians and the pharmaceutical industry, determined to ensure patients living with cancer have access to the care they deserve. Currently, the policies that facilitate access to treatment, support and care – particularly, how we reimburse medicines for cancer – have not adapted quickly enough.

NOA Co-Chair Richard Vines said, “We will work with the PBAC, and all sides of politics, to ensure the reimbursement of medicines in this country adapts to allow subsidised access to exciting treatment options for patients, regardless of cancer type, as the days of a one size fits all approach are behind us.

“Cancer is a community-wide problem that demands collaboration for real progress to be made. By working together, we’re confident we can find a way to deliver equitable access to medicines, quickly.”

A new survey of Australian Oncologists has found that over 3,500 people are digging deep to find $60,000 per annum to access potentially lifesaving medication, totalling over $200 million. Additionally, every year, over 6,000 Australian’s are unable to afford treatments recommended by their clinicians.

“They should not be missing out on innovative treatments because of the size of their bank balance,” states Mr Vines.

The Honourable Greg Hunt, Minister for Health, showed great leadership in asking the PBAC to explore options for new processes that would enable faster access to subsidised cancer treatments. This announcement was made at Rare Cancers Australia’s CanForum event in August last year in response to the report Rare Solutions: A Time to Act.

‘Whilst August 17 is a great start, and PD-1/PD-L1 medicines are the first cab off the rank for the PBAC to find new pathways for, there are many other innovative oncology medicines that have potential across multiple cancer types. This inquiry should be the beginning of a more flexible approach to reimbursement, ensuring patients don’t miss out,” explains Mr Vines.

Professor John Zalcberg, NOA Co-Chair said that ‘most Australian’s would be shocked to learn the extent to which Australian cancer patients were either funding their own treatment or left without what they need when they need it most.’

“As a clinician, the findings of this survey are confronting” explains Professor Zalcberg “Clearly, the system can’t take it’s time to adapt because time is what most Australians living with cancer don’t have.

“Our health system must evolve to a point where it keeps up with advances in science and empowers clinicians to treat their patients with what they believe will help their patients beat cancer – not what our current system limits their access to,” said Professor Zalcberg.

Specifically, NOA is calling on the PBAC to:

  • Put a new process in place that recognises today’s cancer treatments may be life changing for people living with other types of cancers – beyond what a treatment may already be reimbursed for on the PBS. For instance, creating a follow-on subsidy pathway for additional indications for new cancer treatments will streamline the resource burdens on the PBAC, government and industry, and address some of the commercial and administrative challenges that can stall applications for reimbursement and ultimately access to treatment.
  • Think outside the box to create a pathway for faster access to new medicines for vulnerable Australians living with rare and less common cancers. For instance, a provisional PBS listing through managed access could be a solution in situations where there is a high level of uncertainty in a PBAC submission for a rare cancer indication, with additional real-world evidence needed to build the case for eventual PBS listing.
  • Create a molecular testing and classification framework that ensures the compatibility of PBAC/MSAC evaluation processes with biomarker-led therapies and that enables aggregation across rare cancers – preserving the role of randomised trial evidence and addressing areas of high unmet medical need.

– ENDS –

Media contacts:

Mike Lane Alex McInnes
mike@oprlife.com.au alexandra@oprlife.com.au
0409 666 022 0404 767 998

About NOA:
NOA is a cancer advocacy initiative with more than 100 members, including patients, patient groups, clinicians and the pharmaceutical industry to make progress a reality. NOA’s work is directed by a steering committee, co-chaired by Professor John Zalcberg and Rare Cancers Australia CEO Richard Vines. NOA’s four pillars – patients, patient groups, clinicians and the pharmaceutical industry.

About the survey:
To determine the scale of the disadvantage that the current system brings, a survey of Australian oncologists was undertaken. 68 oncologists – 15% of all oncologists in Australia2 – responded to this survey.

References:
1. National Oncology Alliance survey of Australian oncologists, 2018. Data on file.
2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Medical Practitioners Workforce 2015. Available online at https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/workforce/medical-practitioners-workforce-2015/contents/what-types-of-medical-practitioners-are-there. Last accessed 03 August 2018.

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