One year ago today, before Migraine Australia existed, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee – the independent body that recommends drugs to be listed on the PBS – recommended that Emgality be listed on the PBS.
Emgality is one of the new life-changing CGRP antagonists, the first medications designed for migraine attack prevention, and the first real shot many people with migraine have at managing their condition.
A year after getting the green light, Emgality is no closer to being listed on the PBS.
That’s one whole year of Australians being debilitated when they don’t need to be. One whole year of people not being able to go back to work, or look after their kids. One whole year of high medical costs, frequent visits to emergency, and, for many, a lot of pain killers.
For people who live in regional areas, the burden is higher. Not having these medications means they have to travel to the city regularly to get inferior treatment, or suffer without any good treatment options for their significant migraine.
It’s also one whole year that migraine has continued to drain some $36 billion from the economy without any effort to try and stop that extraordinary waste.
The new drugs are not for everyone. Emgality won’t work for every patient who needs a preventative. But if we can free the roughly 100,000 people who would benefit significantly from CGRP treatment, it is simply cruel to deny them this help.
The reasons why Emgality (or Ajovy) have not been listed are at once complex, and very simple. If you wander into the complexities of risk sharing agreements and PBAC advice it is very complex and difficult to follow, which people like the Health Minister count on so they can blame the drug companies.
But at the same time it’s actually very simple: there are too many people living with migraine, and the Government is not willing to spend the money necessary to help the hundreds of thousands of Australians living with chronic or severe migraine.
The ‘just a headache’ stigma bites hard in many aspects of our lives, but no more so than in how our Government treats us. And by Government I don’t mean just the politicians: the public service have also been dismissing migraine as not important forever.
There are many things we need to do to correct that, and to start managing migraine effectively. But how about we start with the glaring one on top of the pile, and list the new medications on the PBS.
Migraine Australia is still a very new organisation, with a broad agenda to support and improve the wellbeing of all people living with migraine and their families. But we will continue to keep getting all the new medications listed on the PBS as our highest priority.
~RK Crosby, Chair, Migraine Australia Ltd
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