A cross section of Australia’s HIV organisations have backed a campaign by the Consumers Health Forum of Australia (CHF) in censuring the federal Government for shelving the approval of drugs needed by chronically ill Australians to keep the budget in surplus.
The National Association of People living With HIV/AIDS (NAPWA), the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO), the National LGBT Health Alliance, ACON, Positive Life NSW and Queensland Positive People all backed the CHF campaign, with four of these making submissions to an inquiry into the Government’s administration of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) by the Senate Finance and Public Administration Committee.
Until now, drugs were listed on PBS on the recommendation of the independent Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) based on cost effectiveness, and automatically approved if subsidies were less than $10m.
But under changes made in February, federal Cabinet has been able to delay consideration of all new drugs regardless of PBAC recommendations, and stakeholders are concerned that politicisation of the approval process may lead to a backlog and potentially disadvantage smaller patient groups.
NAPWA executive director Jo Watson said her organisation was concerned.
“We have no sense from Government about the reasons why which drugs get to go through PBAC and the approval processes versus those drugs that the government defers. There is no timeline or transparency around which drugs are selected for listing availability and which drugs aren’t,” she told the Star Observer.
“The longer this goes on, the more drugs will inevitably get caught up and as deferrals keep building we’re going to see more and more patient groups affected.
“At the moment no HIV drugs have been affected, but we’re part of a wider consumer health movement that’s saying its not good enough for any patient group – its not good enough for government to treat the PBS in this way.”
AFAO executive director Rob Lake said members were concerned about the process becoming politicised.
“We don’t want to see people with different conditions competing for medication. We don’t want to see a situation where whoever has the loudest voice gets the drug listed as opposed to getting the drug considered to be the most effective,” he said.
“Many drugs that are approved by PBAC are for very small numbers of people who need highly expensive drugs and they are not going to win those sorts of lobbying campaigns.”