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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Government’s long-awaited response to The New Frontier report unveiled after two-year wait

Health Industry Hub | December 1, 2023 |

Pharma News: The Albanese Government has tabled its response to the House of Reps inquiry and The New Frontier report delivered two years after it was released. The inquiry report highlighted methods to ensure timely access for Australian patients to cutting-edge medicines and innovative medical technologies.

The Hon Mark Butler MP, Minister for Health and Aged Care said “The New Frontier report will help guide the streamlined and safe adoption of groundbreaking new technologies and treatments that can deliver better outcomes – and even cures – to Australians.”

Acknowledging the collaborative effort behind this substantial initiative, Minister Butler extended gratitude to both current and former Chairs of the Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care, and Sport, Dr Mike Freelander MP and Trent Zimmerman, for their bipartisan dedication in delivering the comprehensive report. He also commended the invaluable contribution of families, researchers, health professionals, industry stakeholders, and peak patient organisations.

Among the 31 recommendations outlined in The New Frontier report, several have received an ‘accept in part’ or ‘accept in principle’ status, indicating a lack of commitment from the government to action them at this time. The government’s acceptance of specific recommendations mostly pertains to work that is already under way, including:

  • Introduction of a medicine repurposing program aimed at enhancing patient access by assisting sponsors in expanding the approved uses of their medicines.
  • Ongoing reforms to the Prescribed List of Medical Devices and Human Tissue Products to enhance the affordability of private health insurance.
  • Expansion of Australian newborn bloodspot screening programs and standardisation of a national list of screened conditions.
  • Consultations aimed at ensuring the patient voice is integral across health technology assessment (HTA) processes.
  • Progress towards the establishment of Genomics Australia.
  • Creation of the Health Technology and Genomics Collaboration, a forum aimed at integrating genomics and other biotechnologies into the national healthcare system.
  • Investment of $66 million through the Medical Research Future Fund 2022 Genomics Health Futures grant opportunity for 25 genomics medicine research projects.
  • Appointment of Professor Ian Chubb to lead key reforms as Chair of the Inter-Governmental Policy Reform Group, overseeing the National One Stop Shop for health and medical research.

Christine Cockburn, General Manager of Rare Cancers Australia welcomed the Federal Government’s response to The New Frontier report.

“In part due to the delay in the response, many of the recommendations are currently in hand with work underway. It is our hope that the current momentum in the healthcare and cancer sectors will result in the following recommendations being delivered in a timely manner; Rec 1: A Centre for Precision Medicine and Rare Diseases, and Rec 2: A National Genomics Testing Program.

“RCA is also encouraged that several of the recommendations from our recent ‘Rarification’ report are addressed in the recommendations and accepted by the Federal Government. As always we will be watching closely to follow developments and to make sure that investment and initiatives deliver real change to outcomes for those living with rare and less common cancers,” Ms Cockburn stated.

Medicines Australia CEO, Liz de Somer, remarked “We particularly welcome the Government’s commitment to Recommendation 30, which aligns with the industry’s objectives of the HTA review. Additionally, a labour market and skills strategy to boost capability and capacity by expanding the number of health economists within Australia aligns with Medicines Australia’s calls to strengthen the skills and capacity in the Department’s Office of HTA.”

Minister Butler elucidated that additional recommendations from The New Frontier report are being addressed through the HTA Policy and Methods Review, a process well advanced and poised to provide recommendations to the government post further public consultation due to commence in December and run through to mid February 2024.

Ms de Somer added “The HTA review is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve the system and ensure it can meet the needs of Australians into the future. This will require collaboration, legislative change and flexibility to accommodate new and disruptive technologies.”

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