Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens health spokesperson has used an address to the Future of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme conference to put the case for reform of the PBS system.
“It is clear to me that we need a better structure for reform of the PBS system rather the current ad hoc approach. There have been a number of changes in recent years and recent announcements from the Government have smacked of desperation,” Senator Siewert said.
“Recently, Cabinet deferred the listing of a number of new medicines on the PBS despite the recommendations of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee and decided that it would review all successful recommendations by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Scheme in future,” said Senator Siewert.
“We have what seems to be a new decision making process by Cabinet which is unprecedented and will create massive uncertainty for industry, delay important new medicines for patients and politicises the listings process.
“The Government is ignoring the advice of its own advisory body – a move which is short sighted, and patients will bear the cost. These decisions will ultimately lead to a far greater cost to the health system.
“Australia pays among the lowest prices for new medicines in the OECD, yet generic prices have been high by international standards.
“Between 2005 and 2009, Australians paid $900 million more for statins than they would have if the prices were equivalent to those in England. The wholesale price of a drug commonly used to treat high cholesterol is about $30 a month in Australia for a 40mg dose. In Britain the same drug costs about $3 a month,” Senator Siewert said.
“The Greens were successful in persuading the Government to conduct a study on the affordability of prescription medication and access to medicines. This study must include the use of generic medicines.
“In next week's Budget we will be keen to see any updates on the savings to date from the recent series of PBS reform,” Senator Siewert concluded.