Pre-implantation genetic testing for IVF added to Medicare, Verzenio use expanded under PBS

Australians going through IVF will soon be able to claim a Medicare rebate for testing that can help them prevent passing serious genetic disorders on to their child. 

Key points:

  • The $95.9 million funding for pre-implantation genetic testing was dubbed “Mackenzie’s gift” by Mr Hunt
  • Mackenzie Casella’s death from SMA inspired her parents to campaign for wider screening and testing for genetic disorders
  • Breast cancer treatment Verzenio has also been listed for expanded use under the PBS

Health Minister Greg Hunt said from November 1 Australians would be able to claim a rebate for five items covering new pre-implantation genetic testing services provided within the existing IVF process. 

Genetic disorders able to be tested during the process include cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), fragile X syndrome, neurofibromatosis and Huntington’s disease.

Previously people who knew they were carriers of serious genetic disorders could only access these tests if they were able to pay privately.

The funding, which Mr Hunt dubbed “Mackenzie’s gift”, is inspired by Mackenzie Casella, who died from spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) at seven months old.

Rachael and Jonny Casella campaigned for wider access to screening for genetic disorders after their daughter was born with SMA.(Supplied: Rachael Casella)

Following the death of their daughter, Rachael and Jonny Casella campaigned for increased access to testing for genetic conditions such as SMA.

In 2018 they successfully secured funding for pre-conception screening for rare and debilitating birth disorders. 

Announcing $95.9 million in funding toward the new rebate on Sunday, Mr Hunt said the testing would mean more children would be born free of genetic conditions, while parents would save between $3,000 and $4,000 a year.

“Mackenzie’s Gift, which we are announcing today, is pre-implantation genetic testing for families who are going through IVF,” Mr Hunt said at a press conference on Sunday. 

“That means that if there is a fertilised egg that is clear of SMA or fragile x, they can go ahead with the IVF, go ahead knowing this beautiful young child will be born free of the condition which might otherwise lead to an agonising one or two years of life.”

Expanded use of Verzenio under PBS

Mr Hunt also announced the expanded use of a breast cancer treatment under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). 

From November 1, Verzenio (abemaciclib) will be listed for expanded use under the PBS in combination with fulvestrant.

Mr Hunt said the expanded PBS listing would benefit about 1,600 Australians each year.

“Without this PBS subsidy Australian patients would pay around $80,000 per course of treatment, instead they’ll only pay $41.30 per script or $6.60 with a concession card for these medicines,” Mr Hunt said.

AAP/ABC

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