Wishing you all a Happy New Year. As we start 2018, I would like to share my thanks to our community of supporters for your generosity last year which has helped us continue to raise the profile of lung disease and the importance of lung health. We also continued to advocate to make lung disease a government priority in 2017.
We worked with the Department of Health to host a Lung Health Round Table discussion which bought together representatives across different lung diseases to identify practical clinical interventions to improve patient outcomes including widening access to pulmonary rehabilitation, funding Lung Cancer Nurses and increasing awareness about symptoms and risk factors and support for self-management.
In November, the Senate Select Committee tabled its report into Low Survival Rate Cancers. Lung Foundation Australia, along with A/Prof Nick Pavlakis, Chair of our Australasian Lung Cancer Trials Group, and lung cancer patient and advocate, Lillian Leigh participated in the enquiry. This included providing recommendations such as improving access to research funding and facilitating patient involvement in trials; more support for Lung Cancer Nurses; education and awareness to support earlier diagnosis; support of data collection, registries and flexible approaches to approving new medications for low survival cancers.
Lung Foundation Australia’s recent Federal Budget Submission urges the Government to ensure lung disease receives the funding and support needed to reduce its impact as the nation’s second leading cause of death. The submission outlines six high priority and cost-effective actions that will transform the lives of those affected by lung disease.
Lung Foundation Australia continues to play a role in advocating for affordable access to lung cancer medications. Four medications for the treatment of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) were considered at the November meeting of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee with one of these medications, Atezolizumab, receiving a positive recommendation for listing on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). In addition to this, Alectinib, considered at an earlier meeting, has been listed on the PBS from January 1, 2018.
In a submission provided to the Senate Inquiry on the Use and Marketing of E-cigarettes and Personal Vaporisers, Lung Foundation Australia and Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand urged the Government to take a precautionary approach to e-cigarettes. The current published evidence shows e-cigarettes are not harm free and emerging evidence is showing the risk amongst young vapers transitioning to tobacco cigarettes and therefore the submission opposed their ready availability as a consumer item.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who helped raise awareness and break down the stigma surrounding lung disease during Lung Health Awareness Month in November 2017. As of 2018, Lung Health Awareness Month will be held in May to allow us to focus on a public health campaign encouraging people to “check their lung health”, particularly in the lead up to winter. This will also allow us to increase our focus on further enhancing disease specific campaigns in November, such as Shine a Light on Lung Cancer, World COPD Day and Pulmonary Hypertension Awareness Month. Keep an eye out for further information about how you can get involved in Lung Health Awareness Month and help raise awareness.