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PBS decision lacks evidence base, conference told

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Media Release

The Federal Government is ignoring its own growth forecasts for the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, and making policy decisions without an evidence base, Medicines Australia chief executive Dr Brendan Shaw told industry experts in Sydney today.

Speaking at the 8th Annual Future of the PBS Conference, Dr Shaw said the Federal Cabinet would have found no need to block the listing of new medicines on the PBS if it had taken into account its own forecasts of modest PBS growth.

“If the Government had even bothered to look at its own forecasts of what the PBS is going to be doing over the coming years, they would have seen there is no reason for them to take the course of action they did,” Dr Shaw said.

“Treasury’s own forward estimates contained in last year’s Budget show that the PBS is only going to grow by 2.1 per cent per annum in real terms over the next four years.

“Yet the Government chooses to ignore all of its own projections and its own data and continues to impose further ad hoc, knee-jerk cost containment measures.

“The Cabinet’s decision to block the listing of new medicines on the PBS and impose Cabinet scrutiny of all new medicines seeking listing on the PBS is flawed. This is not evidence-based policy making.

Dr Shaw cited the latest Medicare data for PBS growth, the most recent Intergenerational Report, Treasury projections from last year’s Budget, and a PricewaterhouseCoopers report commissioned by the Federal Government in 2010 as evidence that PBS growth was well controlled.

Dr Shaw also lamented that most of the policy debate about the PBS ignored the benefits it provides. He used an example of how the PBS had changed over the last 40 years since 1971 to argue that the PBS provides a range of benefits to the community as it has grown.

“There is little consideration that spending on new medicines generates savings in the health system, making peoples’ lives better, and makes for a more productive, healthy and happy Australian community,” he said.

“Let’s hope future generations of Australians 40 years from now do not look back at us here today and lament that our generation skimped on healthcare, innovation and making new technologies available to Australians through the PBS.”

Transcript is available here


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