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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Roche joins advocacy groups in responding to rare cancers inquiry report

Health Industry Hub | May 22, 2024 |

Pharma News: The Senate Community Affairs References Committee released its inquiry report on Equitable access to diagnosis and treatment for individuals with rare and less common cancers. The inquiry and its recommendations highlight a consensus among multi-sector stakeholders that patients with rare and less common cancers face significant inequities in their experiences and outcomes.

Christine Cockburn, CEO of Rare Cancers Australia (RCA), commented, “With the HTA Review report complete and now with the Minister of Health, it was great to see recommendation 10 for the Australian Government to utilise the HTA Policy and Methods Review to provide Australian rare and less common cancer patients with timely and affordable access to novel medicines.

“It was also encouraging to see recommendation 7 supporting further investigation into opportunities for genomic screening and profiling for patients. This directly supports our Rarefication report’s call for a coordinated national genomics strategy to ensure all cancer patients have access to comprehensive and cost-effective genomic profiling as standard care.”

AstraZeneca, BMS and Noxopharm address findings of inquiry report into rare cancers

Cockburn noted that clinical trials are often the standard of care for patients with rare and less common cancers. Therefore, streamlining access to treatments and overcoming unnecessary barriers is important.

“One further recommendation, number 38, particularly stood out. It reflected an announcement in the Federal Budget last week for a review of the government’s evidentiary standards specifically for rare and less common cancer clinical trials to consider accepting real-world evidence and greater uncertainty in data where appropriate,” she added.

A spokesperson for Roche Pharmaceuticals and Roche Diagnostics told Health Industry Hub, “Roche is aligned with the recommendations in the report, including for increased investment in diagnostic tools and the advancement of genomic testing and for Health Technology Assessment (HTA) bodies to accept a greater degree of uncertainty in relation to rare and less common cancers.”

The Department of the Treasury is currently consulting on and considering policy solutions for genetic discrimination in life insurance. However, the Senate Community Affairs References Committee firmly believes that sufficient work has already been done to confirm the need for the government to “legislate a complete ban on genetic discrimination in life insurance”, as stated in recommendation 6 of the inquiry report.

Dr Jane Tiller, a lawyer, genetic counsellor, and public health researcher passionate about increasing equitable access to genomic medicine, emphasised “This bipartisan recommendation couldn’t be clearer: this is an urgent priority, and the government must legislate a complete ban, not something with limits, caps or exceptions. The time is now.”

While each rare and less common cancer affects a small number of Australians individually, collectively, they impact a substantial number. Approximately 52,000 Australians are diagnosed with these cancers annually. They account for 30% of all cancer diagnoses in Australia but disproportionately represent 42% of all cancer deaths.

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