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Patients being left behind by PBS

Australians need a stronger Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) that delivers new therapies into the hands of patients faster, according to community-endorsed ACT Independent Senate candidate David Pocock.

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 Therapeutic Goods Administration.

“In the Budget, we saw the Morrison Government deliver a pre-election PBS sweetener that would see patients who hit the Safety Net save roughly $80 over the course of an entire year,” said David.

“This $1.50 per week saving does little to make healthcare more affordable, especially for people in the ACT. We have among the lowest bulk billing rates in the country for GPs and imaging procedures, like MRIs. 

“However, it also misses the mark for patients who are seeking affordable access to potentially life-extending and life-saving therapies.

“The people I speak to are concerned not only about the cost of medicines on the PBS, but the cost of the medicines that aren’t.

“The Government is currently celebrating the listing of a new medication for cystic fibrosis. The application for this life-changing medicine was first submitted in 2020. It has taken years for the Government to make a decision on this medicine, leaving patients to fork out around $300,000 annually in order to live more of their lives outside of the hospital.

“There’s no doubt health technologies are becoming more sophisticated and more expensive, but we should be doing our utmost to avoid leaving patients waiting unnecessarily for treatments to be approved. Delays of even a month could be the difference between a person going to their child’s wedding or spending the rest of their life in hospital.

“The PBS is one of many great programs in Australia, but it has room for improvement. We need to ensure the PBS is able to safely deliver medicines into the hands of patients sooner.”

David said that should the ACT community elect him to the Senate on 21 May, he will work with patients to fight for reforms that will deliver new therapies to Australian shores sooner.

“I’m not interested in quick political fixes or band-aid solutions, like spending millions just to put $1.50 back into people's pockets each week. There’s no doubt these are tricky reforms, but they have to be addressed.

“We must start viewing the health budget as an investment, rather than a cost. Access to medicines can improve peoples’ quality of life, helping them to get out of hospital and look after kids and grandparents, as well as being able to work and participate in their communities.

“There are already a number of policy solutions that could be brought to the table, which have worked in countries similar to Australia. For example, programs that allow for medicines to be funded through the PBS temporarily at an agreed price while they are working their way through the main PBS process.

“It’s also an example of where different policy areas can come together to make a difference, not just for the ACT but for the whole of Australia.

“Under the current Government, the Australian Public Service has been gutted, leaving many departments struggling to keep up with the workload they are given. We need to scrap these arbitrary staffing caps and allow the Department of Health to get the resources they need to cope with the massive pipeline of new health technologies hitting their desks every week.

“We have nothing if not our health, but healthcare in the ACT and across the country is becoming increasingly unaffordable and inaccessible. We need someone in Parliament who will tackle the big, hard reforms that will bring about a health system that is truly universal and world-class.”

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