Dialog Box


The Evidence

Cancer In Australia

  • Australia has the highest age-standardised incidence of cancer in the world.
  • In 2015, the risk of being diagnosed with cancer before the age of 85 will be 1 in 2 for males and 1 in 3 for females; 1 in 5 will die from cancer before the age of 85 years.
  • This year it is estimated that 45,780 people will die from cancer, an average of 125 deaths every day, accounting for about 3 in every 10 deaths in Australia.
  • Australia is known for having the highest rate of prostate cancer and melanoma and the third highest rate of breast cancer in the world.

Disease Burden vs Expenditure

  • Cancer presents the highest disease related burden on society accounting for 19% of the total burden of disease.
  • Despite this, Australian patients are either being denied potentially life-saving drugs that are available in other countries or experiencing considerable delays in accessing many new and innovative medicines.

Access to cancer medicines in Australia

  • There are currently around 100 cancer medicines available on the PBS in Australia, with another 100 in late-stage development and likely to be submitted for approval and reimbursement in the next few years.
  • Approximately 44 new applications for cancer medicines are likely to be submitted to the PBS by the end of 2015.
  • The time between approval and reimbursement for cancer medicines in Australia has risen from 15 months to 31 months in the past 10 years.
  • More than 80% of first applications for new cancer medicines are rejected.
  • Cancer medicines are simply an acute example of current challenges with medicines reimbursement via the PBS.  There are many other medicines across different disease areas that face similar challenges in securing timely access for patients.

The need for system modernisation

  • The PBS, formed over 60 years ago, has served Australians well but it is not equipped to respond quickly to advances in medical treatment, particularly in cancer where treatments are becoming more individualised – i.e. responding to genetic conditions, and therefore being more effective for a targeted group of patients.
  • The approval rate of new cancer drugs is alarmingly low with around 12 out of 19 first applications for new drugs being rejected.
  • Furthermore, Australian patients wait longer than many other countries to access the same cancer medicine with the average time between TGA approvals to PBS listing increasing from 15 months to 31 months over the past 10 years.
  • Without significant long-term, sustainable reform, Australians will wait longer and longer to access to cancer medicines that are available elsewhere in the world. Where other countries have introduced reform, clear improvements to cancer medicines have been seen, both in terms of faster approval times and more medicines being available to patients.

Reimbursement success rates and timelines for new medicines for cancer; an international comparison; Michael Wonder; March 2014

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2014. Cancer in Australia: an overview 2014. Cancer series No 90. Cat. no. CAN 88. Canberra: AIHW

Office of Health Economics (UK). International Comparison of Medicines Usage: Quantitative Analysis. November 2014


Additional Evidence

  • Deloitte Access Economics Report, Access to Cancer Medicines in Australia (July 2013) - 3.8MB (PDF)