PBS deferrals risk creating two-tier health system

Federal Cabinet’s decision to defer the listing of new medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme threatens to take Australia into a two-tier health system, Medicines Australia chief executive Dr Brendan Shaw told a Senate Committee hearing today.

Dr Shaw was giving evidence to the Senate Finance and Public Administration References Committee Inquiry into the Government’s administration of the PBS.

Dr Shaw said five months after Cabinet’s announcement to defer the listing of some medicines that had been recommended by the Government’s own expert advisory committee, some patients were still unable to afford those treatments.

“For patients this has meant five months without medicines that would materially improve their lives,” Dr Shaw told the Inquiry.

“Patients suffering from schizophrenia, excessive sweating and chronic pain are all missing out. As more medicines come up for listing, more patients are now anxious they too will miss out in the future.

“We run the real risk of developing a two-tier health system, where the wealthy can afford the most effective and convenient treatment options, while the rest will have to make do with less convenient treatments already on the PBS.

“There are few things more important in government than making medicines affordable for sick people and their families.

“Given Australia is a wealthy country, with one of the best fiscal positions in the industrialised world, we should be able to afford to spend money on medicines for sick people.

“The growth of the PBS is at historic lows. Treasury’s own projections from last year’s Intergenerational Report suggest that growth will remain flat at around 0.7 per cent of GDP until at least 2020.

“The PBS is a sustainable, well run program that delivers major benefits to the health of the nation. These benefits run far deeper than a simple reading of the balance sheet by an accountant would suggest.”

Dr Shaw urged the Committee to recommend that Government list the medicines it has deferred and revert to the previous practice of listing new medicines recommended to it by its own expert advisory committee.


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