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Expert Panel for Life Saving Drugs Program

The Government has appointed Australia’s former Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Hobbs as chairman of the Life Saving Drugs Program Expert Panel.

In announcing the appointment, Health Minister Greg Hunt said the panel was being established to help improve access to lifesaving medicines for rare diseases.

The Life Saving Drugs Program (LSDP) provides free medicines to treat patients with rare and life-threatening diseases.

Medicines funded through on the LSDP include some high cost medicines that do not meet the criteria to be funded on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

Currently, the Government funds 13 different medicines for nine very rare diseases through the LSDP, providing physical, emotional and financial relief for people and families in need.

The LSDP supported 393 patients in 2016-17 at a cost of $116 million and over the past six years the number of patients accessing these medicines through the program has grown over 65 per cent.

“The new expert panel will support the evaluation of medicines for funding and provide advice to the Chief Medical Officer,” Mr Hunt said.

“The diverse experience of the appointees will ensure that the program is supported by some of the very best minds in evidence evaluation and health technology assessment.”

Other members of the six-member panel will include clinical experts Professor Jonathan Craig and Professor Elizabeth Elliott, health economist Adjunct Professor Jim Butler, consumer nominee Nicole Millis and industry nominee Liliana Bulfone. 

Dr Hobbs’ appointment is for four years, with the new expert panel members’ terms varying from two to four years.

“Highly respected in their fields, this group will make a major contribution in considering the suitability of new medicines for inclusion on the LSDP through advice to the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer,” Mr Hunt said.

Other recent changes to the LSDP include clearer eligibility criteria for inclusion on the LSDP, a more transparent and timely assessment process, new pricing policies similar to those that apply to PBS medicines, and the review all of the currently funded LSDP medicines.

The changes follow the Government response to a review of the LSDP chaired by Professor Andrew Wilson.