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A PRIORITY FOR INDEPENDENT SENATORS: FASTER ACTION REQUIRED TO GET TGA APPROVED DRUGS ON THE PBS

28 April 2022

Independent Senator Rex Patrick today called on the Coalition Government and Labor Opposition to commit to strengthening the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) to deliver new medicines into the hands of patients faster.

Australians face increasing medical costs across the board, as a consequence of the decline of bulk billing by GPs, increasing out-of-pocket expenses, rising private health insurance premiums, and rising prices for essential medicines.

“Many people struggle with the cost of medicines already listed on the PBS. Far too many face distressing decisions about having to pay for medication while forgoing other essentials, or vice versa. The choice is all the more agonising in the case of vital, sometimes life-saving, medications that aren’t listed on the PBS.”

Independent ACT Senate candidate David Pocock has recently shone a light on the often long delays between Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approval of medicines as safe and effective, and the eventual listing of those medications with the PBS. 

Data drawn from the MAESTrO database reveals that patients wait on average 820 days - or more than two years - for a new medicine to be added to the PBS after it has been approved as safe for use by the TGA.

The Government has recently made a big deal of their listing on the PBS of a new medication for cystic fibrosis. However, it had taken years for the Government to make a decision on that medicine, leaving patients and their families to pay as much as $300,000 annually in order to live more of their lives outside of hospital.

Senator Patrick said: “Modern pharmaceuticals are becoming ever more sophisticated and expensive, and decisions to list medicines on the PBS must be based on thorough and independent assessment. But we should not see patients left waiting unnecessarily, sometimes for years, for TGA safety approved treatments to be listed and made available at affordable cost.”

“David Pocock has done well to highlight this issue. It’s a great example of how political Independents not only listen to their communities, but are free to act to highlight problems and pursue solutions without fear or favour.”

“The PBS is a great national program that serves Australia well, but there's always room for reform and improvement. The Coalition Government’s long-term run-down of the Australian Public Service has had many undesirable consequences, including in the Department of Health and Ageing and the management of the PBS.”

“It would be most timely for a new Senate Committee inquiry into the administration of the PBS. The last wide-ranging Senate review of the operation of the PBS reported back in 2011, more than a decade ago.”

“A new Senate review of the operation of the PBS, with particular regard to the approval of new medicines and therapies, would be an appropriate task to be undertaken early in the new Parliament. If re-elected to the Senate, I’ll be keen to refer this issue to the Senate Community Affairs Committee which covers the health portfolio.”

“Drawing on a wide range of advice from inside and outside government, and from the full range of medical and scientific experts, we should be able to identify reforms and improvements that will see Australians get the new medicines they need faster and at affordable cost.” 

“Independent MPs and Senators sharing ideas and working collaboratively can make the Parliament work for the Australian people, and not just serve as a gladiatorial battleground for the big political parties.”

“I very much hope that there will be the opportunity to work with David Pocock and other independent and crossbench senators because there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to deliver the better government Australians deserve.”