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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Australian Diabetes Society, JDRF and Private Healthcare Australia speak out on crucial roadblocks at Inquiry hearing

Health Industry Hub | February 19, 2024 |

Pharma News: The Health, Aged Care and Sport Committee convened a public hearing at Parliament House in Canberra on Friday, 16 February. The committee, amidst its ongoing inquiry into diabetes, engaged with the Australian Diabetes Association, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), and Private Healthcare Australia.

The Australian Diabetes Society is urging the expansion of the Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) subsidy for all Australians living with diabetes. Additionally, the society proposed the ability to prescribe both SGLT2 inhibitors and GLP-1 receptor agonists through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). The emphasis is on early initiation of these medications for individuals with diabetes at high cardiovascular risk or renal impairment, irrespective of glycaemic control. Furthermore, they called for increased publicly funded bariatric surgery sessions for obesity.

Concerningly, data from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) revealed a 35% reduction in diabetes research funding over the past decade. This decline has significantly impacted the diabetes research workforce. In response, the ADS recommended the establishment and funding of a National Diabetes Research Taskforce, a doubling of NHMRC Diabetes Research Funding to $85 million per year, and the creation of a $270 million Diabetes and Obesity Mission through the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF).

The JDRF, echoing the urgency for innovation, is calling attention to the slow regulatory and reimbursement assessment pathways for novel and life-changing technologies for Type 1 Diabetes (T1D). The patient advocacy group proposed expanding the Insulin Pump Program (IPP) to low-income health care card holders to bridge the gap in access for patients who cannot afford private health insurance.

All people with T1D have access to CGM, either fully subsided or at a much-reduced cost. This will become an increasing pressure as new interoperable technologies, not listed on the Prescribed List (PL), come to market. The benefits of interoperable technologies may become further out of reach for adults over 21 living with T1D, as they have access to CGM but no pathway to an insulin pump without private health insurance.

Moreover, the JDRF urged the exploration of alternative, low-cost pathways for the approval of older type 2 diabetes therapies that may be beneficial to T1D patients such as metformin or amylin analog Pramlintide. There is little incentive for pharmaceutical companies to initiate approval processes with the TGA for an off-patent drug and alternate avenues for approval are limited.

There are also other emerging medicines which have merit such as Lilly’s Olumiant (baricitinib) or others being sought by patients with type 1 diabetes, including Novo Nordisk’s Ozempic (only approved for type 2 diabetes) and Verapamil (off patent).

At the hearing, Ben Harris, Director Policy and Research at Private Healthcare Australia (PHA) outlined several diabetes initiatives led by private health insurers, including Medibank’s Type 2 Diabetes program in collaboration with Austin Health, Phoenix Health Insurance’s Diabetes First program, nib Group’s use of behavioural science, Australian Unity’s efforts to co-design programs with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and HCF’s investment in translational research to improve diabetes healthcare.

In its submission, PHA also raised concerns about the high prices for insulin pumps through private health insurance. The current pricing system means Australians pay double compared to other countries, according to PHA. Specifically, the organisation referenced the t:slim x 2 insulin pump with basal-IQ technology, a widely used medical device in Australia, which comes with a price tag of $8574 for Australians. In comparison, the same device is priced at £3150 (equivalent to AU$6136) in the UK and NZ$4500 (equivalent to AU$4137) in New Zealand.

With approximately 1.5 million Australians living with diabetes and a 35% increase in all forms of diabetes in the past decade, the need for comprehensive and accessible care is paramount.

The Chair of the Committee, Dr Mike Freelander MP, said “Throughout the inquiry, the Committee has heard about the need to improve the way we prevent and manage diabetes in Australia.”

The Deputy Chair of the Committee, Melissa McIntosh MP, stated “The growing impact of diabetes in Australia, including the growing prevalence of the autoimmune disease Type 1 diabetes, means that we must respond to this challenge with forward-thinking policies to deliver better outcomes for diabetes diagnosis, treatment, and management.”

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