25 July 2011 Media Release - The Hon Peter Dutton MP, Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing and Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Shadow Minister for Ageing, Shadow Minister for Mental Health.
The treatment of life-threatening illness is being compromised by the decision of the Gillard Labor Government to defer listing new drugs on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
A Senate inquiry heard in Canberra today that there was no formal criteria for the deferral of drugs and that the Government’s own advisory body had no inkling of this turnaround in policy prior to the announcement by the Minister for Health and Ageing on 25 February.
“Patients have every right to feel cheated,” said Peter Dutton, the Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing. “The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) has every right to feel ignored.
“It was obvious from today’s hearing that there was no consultation before the Gillard Cabinet made this arbitrary decision to defer the listing of eight new medicines and vaccines.
“The Department of Health and Ageing even admitted that the initial decision to defer drugs was made in February ‘in the context of the overall fiscal environment’.”
Senator Fierravanti-Wells, Shadow Minister for Ageing and Shadow Minister for Mental Health, said patients with conditions needing treatment with the deferred drugs had to take their chances and today we saw the human face of this with a single mother of two who had been diagnosed with a brain tumour.
“Those with the capacity to pay for their care are able to receive optimum treatment and the rest miss out,” Senator Fierravanti-Wells said.
“The deputy secretary of the Department of Health and Ageing, Mr David Learmonth, told the hearing in answer to my question that the decision to knock back the listing of botox as a treatment for excessive sweating, as explained by a young witness at Thursday’s hearing, was ‘a decision of government in relation to that particular medicine’.
“Initial costs for new drugs can mean long-term savings but the PBAC’s recommendations are being ignored by Minister Roxon and her Cabinet colleagues.
“This is not an ideal way to formulate health policy. What is the point of having an expert advisory body if its advice is ignored?
“These decisions have a real impact on the quality of people’s lives.
“The Finance and Public Administration Committee heard that pharmaceutical companies felt frustrated. The deferrals go against the spirit of a Memorandum Of Understanding between the industry and the government.
“Clear guidelines must be established and followed.”