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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Cancer experts push for affordable and timely access to precision medicine as government progresses with HTA Review

Health Industry Hub | June 30, 2023 |

Pharma News: Leading cancer experts have hailed the arrival of cutting-edge ‘Precision Medicine’ technologies, while urging patients grappling with high costs and delayed access to voice their concerns directly to the government.

The private Cancer Physicians of Australia (PCPA) has launched the third episode of its Cancer Patient Management series, coinciding with the highly anticipated review of the Health Technology Assessment (HTA) and funding pathways for new diagnostic technologies and treatment therapies by the government.

Aligning with other oncology and patient groups, the nation’s peak body of private cancer specialists, along with its Strategic Alliance Partners, is advocating for the removal of cost and regulatory barriers that hinder cancer patients from accessing upfront molecular profiling. This progressive move aims to ensure that all cancer patients can benefit from Precision Medicine, which holds great promise for personalised and effective treatments.

Professor Desmond Yip, PCPA Treasurer and a senior Medical Oncologist at the Canberra Hospital, led an engaging discussion about the future of Comprehensive Genomic Profiling (CGP), the challenges posed by costs, and the collective mission to establish it as a funded clinical solution for all cancer patients. Joining Professor Yip were Professor Lorraine Chantrill, a Medical Oncologist at the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District (ISLHD) and Area Director of Clinical Trials, and Dr Vivek Rathi, a Group Molecular Pathologist at LifeStrands Genomics.

The podcast is supported by AstraZeneca, a pharmaceutical company that has already applied precision medicine to 90% of its portfolio. With evolving technologies, researchers at AstraZeneca can tap into rich scientific data derived from genetic and molecular biomarkers.

The panel of cancer care experts unanimously agreed that all Australians with cancer should have equal, timely, and affordable access to Precision Medicine or CGP. Professor Chantrill acknowledged the progress made so far, albeit at a slow pace, with the government offering subsidies for limited mutation profiling of common cancers like lung and bowel. However, she emphasised the importance of funding CGP sequencing for rare cancers as well.

“To my colleagues, if you discover an actionable mutation without reimbursement for treatment, I urge you to seek out clinical trials or access programs,” Professor Chantrill advises. “Ask your patient to advocate to Government. Don’t stay silent!”

Dr Vivek emphasized the significance of fast turnaround times in molecular profiling for critically ill patients to determine the most suitable treatment options. While acknowledging the complexity of CGP, he revealed that some labs can now deliver results in under two weeks.

As the nation awaits the government’s review of the HTA and funding pathways, the resounding message from cancer experts is clear: affordable and timely access to precision medicine should be a fundamental right for all cancer patients.

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