Australians deserve faster access to new medicines

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March 12, 2021 12:01 am Australia/Sydney

Parliamentary Inquiry to hear from pharmaceutical leaders today

MSD will today appear at one of the first hearings for the Parliamentary Inquiry into approval processes for new drugs and novel medical technologies in Australia.

Mr Michael Azrak, Managing Director of MSD Australia and New Zealand, will speak about the need for change to Australia’s pharmaceutical reimbursement system alongside other well-known pharmaceutical industry leaders.  

MSD Australia made a submission to this Parliamentary Inquiry in October 2020 and strongly believes this Inquiry represents a real opportunity for government and industry to do more for Australian patients by working together to solve on-going access delays to medicines.

Government and industry have demonstrated significant collaboration throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and this good work can be extended to all Australians who are diagnosed with illnesses whose treatments remain out of reach and not on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

Mr Azrak is eager to address the Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport to highlight the unique opportunity for the pharmaceutical industry and government to reform the health technology assessment (HTA) system in Australia: “Our regulatory authority, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is now proudly world-class, following reforms since 2018 to accelerate how we register medicines for Australian patients. We believe that our PBS can be world-class too.”

“While accelerating registrations for medicines in Australia provides great promise for patients, other countries such as Japan, Germany and the UK, fund new medicines four times faster than our HTA system in Australia1. Some new medicines in Australia can take up to 410 days to be reimbursed[i] which is too long for patients to wait for treatment options,” continued Mr Azrak.

“Australia currently ranks 17th out of 20 OECD countries in access to new medicines1. We have an opportunity to become a world leader in ensuring patient access to medicines, alongside countries like us who are already doing this – the UK, Canada and France.   Our reimbursement process for medicines must be accelerated to ensure that Australian patients have the best access to medicines in the world from 2021 onwards.”

“To achieve this, we believe that the process that subsidises medicines in Australia (HTA) could be changed so that medicines registered by the TGA are listed on the PBS within 90 days. This length of time is possible – we have seen it done before as an exception rather than the rule – and is in line with world leaders who provide subsidised access to medicines, such as Japan (89 days), Germany (117 days), and the UK (128 days)1,” continued Mr Azrak.

“2020 demonstrated the importance of the pharmaceutical sector to the health of Australians. In 2021, the Australian Government and our pharmaceutical industry can together ensure patients have faster access to innovative medicines,” said Mr Azrak.

Copyright © March 2021 Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., a subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, New Jersey, U.S.A. All rights reserved. Merck Sharp & Dohme (Australia) Pty Limited. Level 1, Building A, 26 Talavera Road, Macquarie Park NSW 2113. [VVPM Job number XXXXXX]. First Issued March 2021


[i] Medicines Australia. 2018. Comparison of Access and Reimbursement Environments: A report benchmarking Australia’s access to new medicines: Edition 4.