Australians risk missing out on medical innovations and cutting-edge treatments if the country’s health system, which was designed before many new therapies were created, isn’t updated.

A bipartisan report from the House of Representatives’ health committee found there had been exponential growth in new medicines and treatments in recent years, including genetic medicines for cancers and new drugs and vaccines for COVID-19.

A report says Australia’s medical system must be streamlined to allow for easier access to new therapies.Credit:Getty Images

Committee chair Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman said the innovations had provided hope to many but the health system needed sweeping reforms if it were to keep up with the changes.

“The risk if we don’t [adopt these recommendations] is Australians miss out on some of the new innovations that are happening in medicine, and it means that either Australians miss out entirely or they have to go overseas to get treatment. And that’s not a cheap task,” he said. “Most of our recommendations, we believe, the government can get on with straight away.”

The report on approval processes for new drugs and novel medical technologies in Australia makes 31 recommendations, including streamlining the clinical trial system and creating a new process for accessing personalised, or precision, medicine and genomics.

It also recommends establishing a Centre for Precision Medicine and Rare Diseases within the Department of Health, which both Mr Zimmerman and the committee deputy chair, Labor MP Dr Mike Freelander, believe will help the government look to new therapies.

“I think that is a critical part of the new world,” Dr Freelander said, adding this would be particularly important for providing speedy access to new treatments for serious diseases in children, including spinal muscular atrophy, Duchenne muscular dystrophy and haemophilia.

“These [treatments] are all going to be coming pretty quickly and we want to make sure that Australian patients can get access to them in as timely a manner as possible,” he said.

The other recommendations include consulting industry to find a more flexible way forward for repurposing drugs, boosting the number of health economists and establishing a scheme to support the domestic medical technology sector. Giving more weight to the lived experiences of patients was also a major focus.

The report was welcomed by health groups, including the Medical Technology Association of Australia.

“Australia has one of the world’s best health systems, however, we need to ensure that our regulatory and funding systems can keep up with the exponential pace of growth in innovation,” the association’s chief executive Ian Burgess said.

The peak body for pharmaceutical companies, Medicines Australia, said the inquiry and report were timely and critical given the changing nature of medicines.

Dr Freelander said it would probably take pressure from industry and patient groups to help get these reforms through, adding the report and its suggested reforms were his reason for being in Parliament.

“I won’t let it get neglected from my end – I’ll keep pushing these things,” he said. “I’m not going to give up, and I don’t think Trent will either.”

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