“Get on with it”: pressure mounts on health minister to list migraine drug on PBS


By Michael Woodhead

17 Jul 2020

Pressure to finalise the PBS listing of migraine drug galcanezumab (Emgality) is mounting on Federal minister for health Greg Hunt with his opposition counterpart running a social media campaign on behalf of patients.

Labor’s health spokesman Chris Bowen is using social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter with a hashtag #notjustaheadache to ask why the anti-CGRP migraine prophylaxis therapy has not been added to the PBS despite receiving a recommendation from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee 12 months ago.

As previously reported in the limbic, galcanezumab received a positive recommendation for PBS listing in July 2019 for people with chronic migraine who have unsatisfactorily tried at least three prevention therapies.

However the PBS listing has been delayed as the government is insisting on a financial cap on costs of the drug with manufacturer Eli Lilly. As a results, the CGRP drugs are only available on private prescription, at a cost to patients of $700 for a month of treatment.

In his campaign, Chris Bowen says the minister is using technicalities in the PBAC’s recommendations for risk sharing arrangements to delay the listing, leaving 400,000 people with migraine without access to the latest and most effective medications.

“The issue that is holding it up is Greg Hunt. He has a recommendation from the PBAC to list the drug,” the opposition health spokesman told Sky News.

“He’s completely wrong and he has misled parliament when he said he’s obliged by law to accept every element of the recommendation by PBAC. That’s just not right as ministers for health have not accepted every element of the recommendations, including his good self. He knows that’s wrong because he hasn’t done it in other instances – get on with it.”

“I’ve met people whose lives have been transformed by these drugs, who have had migraine for 25 years and they take the drugs and they stop. Well surely those Australians who can’t afford these drugs deserve to have them listed on the PBS when they have been recommended by the PBAC.”

The health minister has sought to blame drug companies for the breakdown in price negotiations, and has accused them of using migraine patient support groups as a front in an astroturfing campaign to make it seem as if pressure is coming from patients rather than industry.

“In my view it is unethical, inappropriate and we are calling it out,” Mr Hunt told parliament.

The minister reiterated that he was bound by legal requirement to follow all elements PBAC recommendations before listing the drug.

“The government cannot bypass the legal requirement,” he said.

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