Drugs program a success


Canberra parliament house

Hep C program success “extraordinary”, Senate committee hears, but no mention of cost to pharmacy 

However, there is no mention of the issue of the cost of supplying and stocking these medicines

The program of listing Hepatitis C medicines on the PBS has been declared an “extraordinary” success by Senators at recent Expense committee hearings.

Figures presented by Department of Health officials to the Senate Community Affairs Committee expenses hearing last week show that since 1 March 25,000 patients have received these medications.

To date, 5000 of these patients have completed their course of treatment.

Andrew Stuart, deputy secretary of the Department’s Health Benefits Group said: “This is really one of those fantastic things that you have an opportunity to be associated with in your career”.

“This medicine is really a game changer for hepatitis C. We have already seen more people treated effectively this year than we would have ordinarily seen treated over a number of years. There are about 230,000 people in Australia infected with hepatitis C, about 700 deaths a year attributable to hepatitis C and also a significant feed through from hepatitis C to liver transplants,” he said.

 “We have an opportunity, if everyone plays their part, to actually all but eradicate the disease in the course of a generation”.

Senator Linda Reynolds (Lib, WA) described the program as “extraordinary…. This is very good news…” she said, asking department officials to emphasise the cost savings of more than $20,000 per patient of listing these treatments on the PBS.

However there was no mention of the issue of the cost to pharmacists and wholesalers for stocking and supplying the medicines.

In its submission to the Review of Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia said a ‘High-cost PBS Schedule’ be created specifically for listing such high-cost medicines 

Meanwhile, Greens leader Senator Richard Di Natale questioned the progress of the ongoing review into the Life Saving Drugs Program.

The review was commenced in 2014, however no report has yet been presented, Senator Di Natale said.

Penny Shakespeare, First Assistant Secretary, Pharmaceutical Benefits Division responded: “There has been a post-market review of the Life Saving Drugs Program and a report of that review completed. The government is now considering the review”.

Department of Health secretary Martin Bowles said in response to a question from Senator Di Natale on whether the program would be rolled into the PBS that it “would be a decision of government ultimately, but that does make some sense. There are broader policy implications, so we would need to consider that”.

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