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World Cancer Day 2015

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Medicines Australia Blog

The 4th of February 2015 was World Cancer Day, and during 2015 it will focus on taking a positive and proactive approach to the fight against cancer, highlighting that solutions do exist across the continuum of cancer, and that they are within our reach

The medicines industry takes its responsibilities in the fight against cancer very seriously. Almost one third of the more than three-thousand medicines presently in clinical development worldwide are in oncology.

Working on new innovative treatments and medicines to improve the survival rate of cancer-related deaths is a top priority, especially when we know that in Australia we have the highest age-standardised incidence of cancer in the world – 1 in 2 Australians will develop cancer; 1 in 5 will die from cancer.

While Australia has traditionally performed well in providing affordable and equitable patient access to cancer medicines, the registration and particularly the reimbursement system faces significant challenges, as it does across the world. The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme has not adapted sufficiently to the changes in technologies, particularly targeted therapies.

Australia is behind in the adoption of medical technologies, and there are a growing number of patients unable to access some medicines compared with their overseas counterparts.

According to a report released in December 2014 by the UK Office of Health Economics, many Australian patients are missing out on new cancer medicines and relying on older alternatives.

The report finds that on usage of cancer medicines approved within the past 5 years, Australia ranks second last (twelfth), only in front of New Zealand, and down from 10th in 2009, relative to similar developed countries.

Medicines Australia is working with the industry and the Government to better understand why such delays might be occurring.

What we do know is that there is a need to adapt and evolve the registration and reimbursement processes alongside advances in science and technology. In that context, Medicines Australia welcomed the recent announcement of a Senate Inquiry into the availability of new and innovative specialist cancer drugs in Australia.

Medicines Australia will constructively engage with the Senate Committee Inquiry, and share relevant information and actions undertaken by our members to improve access to all innovative medicines, including cancer medicines, in Australia.

Medicines Australia will recommend that the Senate Inquiry acknowledge the very significant impact which ground breaking, new cancer medicines have had on the lives of Australia patients suffering cancer, and the need for Government to continue to list these medicines on the PBS in a timely manner.

We can always do better, and it’s up to the industry, government and the community to examine and act on ways we can cut red tape, improve reimbursement processes, and optimise access to cancer medicines in a co-operative and positive way.

Every Australian deserves the latest ground-breaking treatments and medicines, with affordable and timely access now and in the future. World Cancer Day 2015 encourages us to acknowledge this and act on it.