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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Stakeholders speak out on government’s two-year delayed response to The New Frontier report

Health Industry Hub | December 4, 2023 |

Pharma News: After a prolonged two-year wait since the release of The New Frontier report, the government’s response has triggered reactions from patient advocacy groups and industry bodies alike. Among the 31 recommendations outlined in the House of Representatives inquiry report, the government’s acceptance of various recommendations mostly pertains to work that is already under way.

Patient Voice Initiative (PVI) remains steadfast in its focus in ensuring patients can be seen, heard and valued in health technology assessment (HTA). As such many of the relevant recommendations in The New Frontier report are not yet answered in the Government’s response tabled on 30 November.

Jessica Bean, Chair of PVI told Health Industry Hub “Patient communities are awaiting the draft options from the HTA Policy and Methods Review Reference Committee and draft plan being developed by the Co-design Working Group for enhanced consumer engagement.

“We recognise that the Co-design Working Group has just begun this important work with its first meeting held on 15 November, and that the Minister has announced that the HTA Review will now not finish until April next year. As we approach the period when many in patient communities will take a well-earned break after another gruelling year, we are keen to see options and updates from these groups, including dates for the release of draft publications and consultations.”

Lorraine Chiroiu, CEO of AusBiotech, expressed optimism towards the government’s response to enhanced regulator funding, stating, “It was positive to note that the Government accepts the recommendation to increase funding for the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), as the agency has historically relied on a cost recovery funding model covered predominantly by industry. This is a positive step, taking the TGA a step closer to its international world-class regulatory counterparts. We look forward seeing a sustainable funding announced in future budgets.”

Furthermore, she commended the government’s commitment to consulting with the industry to establish a more adaptable approach to drug repurposing in Australia “for all diseases, rather than just rare disease”.

The appointment of Emeritus Professor Ian Chubb AC as Chair of the Inter-Governmental Policy Reform Group (IGPRG) for health and medical research, announced on October 31st – predating the response to The New Frontier report – was also noted.

“The National One Stop Shop will provide a harmonised operating environment for the approval and management of clinical trials and health-related research via one nation-wide, cross-government, platform. We look forward to working with Department of Health and IGPRG as it begins the next phase, and look forward to seeing sustainable funding allocated within the next budget,” Ms Chiroiu added.

Christine Cockburn, General Manager of Rare Cancers Australia, acknowledged the government’s response but expressed concern over the delay impacting the ongoing initiatives.

Ms Cockburn highlighted “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.”

Rare Voices Australia (RVA) welcomed the report, saying “The report contains 31 recommendations, including dedicated sections to rare diseases and the patient voice. Additionally, the report aligns with a number of the priorities, actions and implementation steps outlined in the Government’s National Strategic Action Plan for Rare Diseases.”

Liz de Somer, CEO of Medicines Australia, praised the government’s commitment to Recommendation 30, aligning with the industry’s objectives for the Health Technology Assessment (HTA) review.

She added “We are also pleased to note the Government’s commitment to the Strategic Agreement with Medicines Australia. Several of the recommendations are in progress through our agreement, such as the need for clear and measurable benchmarks to track the implementation of the recommendations, which will be refined in the coming months in consultation with industry and stakeholders. It is our view that the current process improvement metrics do not provide adequate transparency around time to access, and this will be an important step in achieving a world class system.”

The extended deadline for the HTA Review until 15 April 2024 aims to “ensure that the Reference Committee has sufficient time to consider the extensive and valuable input and material received for the HTA Review so far, as well as conduct further public consultation”. The second public consultation is due to commence this month and run through to mid February 2024.

“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,” Ms de Somer stated, emphasising the necessity for collaborative efforts, legislative changes, and flexibility to accommodate “new and disruptive technologies”.

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