Minister wants new process for 'pan-tumour' medicines

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Health minister Greg Hunt has asked PBAC chair Professor Andrew Wilson to work on developing a new process for assessing 'pan tumour' medicines.

Speaking in Canberra this morning at CanForum 2017, a forum hosted by Rare Cancers Australia, Mr Hunt told the audience he asked Professor Wilson to 'find a way' to assess medicines to treat multiple tumours to help ensure patient access in a more timely way.

At present, organisations generally submit medicines for assessment by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee based on single tumours and indications.

Yet according to Mr Hunt, with advances in drug technology, including with immunotherapies, there is an opportunity to enhance the existing assessment process to reflect their significant potential to treat multiple cancers.

Immunotherapies are currently in development to treat literally dozens of tumour types. However, each medicine much navigate current regulatory and reimbursement processes for each indication relating to a single tumour type.

Current immunotherapies are PBS-listed for fewer indications than they are TGA approved to treat.

PharmaDispatch understands work is already underway on process improvements consistent with the minister's announcement in line with the strategic agreement between government and Medicines Australia. However, a new process could require a change to the current application of legislated cost-effectiveness requirements.

Mr Hunt also announced government will invest $13 million from the Medical Research Future Fund in clinical trials for rare cancers and rare disease.

He paid tribute to Rare Cancers Australia for its report and work in securing the listing of MSD's ZOLINZA (vorinistat) for relapsed or refractory cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.

"Treatments are emerging as we sit here that will give people hope and an opportunity to have longer and better lives," he said. "This is a moment in history where things can evolve."

In response to the new report form Rare Cancers Australia, Rare Solutions - Time to act, the minister said he hoped to work jointly on developing a response with Labor counterpart Catherine King.

More broadly on research, Mr Hunt said Australia's goal over the next decade should be to become a world leader in genomics research and personalised medicines. "The PM is interested in a 'genomics' moonshot for Australia," he said, highlighting government's commitment to fund a proton beam therapy capability based in South Australia.