The week of the 2022 federal Budget has brought good news on the PBS listing of Trikafta for cystic fibrosis but bad news in the government’s refusal to fund a national lung cancer screening program.
The 1 April PBS listing will mean that about 2000 patients with CF aged 12 years and older with at least one F508del Mutation in the CFTR gene will gain subsidised access to Trikafta (elexacaftor, tezacaftor and ivacaftor), that would otherwise cost over $250,000 per year.
The listing would provide affordable access to a precision therapy for the most common CF-causing mutation, said Professor John Wilson, Head of the Cystic Fibrosis Service at Alfred Health.
“Clinicians across Australia will be excited about this most welcome news,” he said.
Many patients with CF spend months of their lives in hospital because of recurrent airways infections and respiratory failure. This new treatment which is a pill taken twice a day can short circuit all of that,” he added.
The announcement was part of a Budget package of $2.4 billion over five years to fund new PBS listings. The Budget also included $81.2 million over four years from 2022-23 to introduce new genetic testing items for the genetic conditions, including cystic fibrosis
However the 2022 Budget dashed hopes for respiratory physicians who noted there was no funding from federal government to support its promise of introducing a national lung cancer screening program.
Lung Foundation Australia expressed “extreme disappointment” that the government was not funding a screening program that was backed by evidence showing it would prevent 12,000 lung cancer deaths over 10 years.
“There is undeniable evidence for this screening program that has already had initial investment into scoping, but this lack of funding means progress will stall, and thousands of lives will be lost as a result” said CEO Mark Brooke.
“Over the last three years a significant amount of work has gone into assessing suitability of a lung cancer screening program, which was ultimately recommended by Cancer Australia, and even an investment of $6.9m in the previous budget,” he said
As this aired we learned no funding was allocated in the budget for lung cancer screening. We're devastated for the 12K lives that could've been saved over the next 10 years @ScottMorrisonMP @JoshFrydenberg @GregHuntMP @AlboMP @Mark_Butler_MP @JEChalmers @Barnaby_Joyce @AdamBandt https://t.co/bfUpMG49rT
— Lung Foundation Australia (@Lungfoundation) March 29, 2022
As well as saving lives and reducing the financial burden to the health system associated with lung cancer, a screening program was also supported by the Australian community, said Mr Brooke, citing figures showing 82% in support of government funding for a national program.
“Lung Foundation Australia strongly believes that a national screening program is a crucial first step in improving survival rates of the biggest cancer killer in Australia that claims one Australian’s life every hour,” he said.
There was also bad news in the Budget for health and medical research, with the NHMRC inflicted with a cut in real term funding. The Australian Society for Medical Research lamented that the Budget contained no new investment in research and the 1% increase in existing funding in the Budget was below inflation, leaving Australian to fall further behind other nations.
Another disappointing night for health and medical research (HMR) sector. Another year of below inflation increase to #nhmrc budget. Another year of failing to support HMR workforce & innovations. Another year of falling behind international competitors” #budget22 #auspol
— The Australian Society for Medical Research (ASMR) (@TheASMR1) March 29, 2022