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Transcript of doorstop interview of the Shadow Minister for Health: Parliament House, Canberra: Impact of PBS co-payment increase, removal calcium from PSB. \n

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Shadow Minister for Health Manager of Opposition Business



ISSUES: Impact of PBS co-payment increase, removal calcium from PBS

JULIA GILLARD: In this morning’s newspapers there were reports of statistics released yesterday about the number of prescriptions being filled by Australians. These statistics show that in the first 6 months of this year the number of prescriptions grew by just 0.1 per cent. That compares with a 5.8 per cent increase in the same period last year. Now Labor is concerned that these statistics mean poorer and often chronically ill Australians aren’t filling their prescriptions because they can’t afford the new PBS co-payment.

The Howard Government put up the price of medicines, the PBS co-payment by 21 per cent on the 1st of January and we are afraid that decision is now showing in unfilled prescriptions, probably for medications that manage chronic conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The fear here is if people can’t afford their medication and don’t take it they are much more likely to have a big health problem down the track. Doctors and pharmaceutical experts are also concerned this is the explanation for the fall in the number of prescriptions being issued.

Tony Abbott has put it down to better prescribing practices but he is just guessing. There has been no new major initiative on prescribing practices which would explain such a dramatic change. Instead of guessing Tony Abbott should be analysing these statistics and if the Howard Government has got it wrong on its policy about co-payments, should be admitting that.

On another matter, we called on Tony Abbott yesterday to release the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, the expert’s advice on calcium tablets. Tony Abbott ripped calcium tablets off the PBS as a budget savings measure. We believe he has expert advice about that, indeed he confirmed in the last Parliament he had such advice. He is required to table it in the Parliament today. We want to see that advice but we also want to hear an undertaking from the Minister that whatever the experts recommend he will implement, even if that means wholly back flipping on his budget savings measure.

JOURNALIST: On co-payments don’t you need a longer time before you can make any comprehensive assessment?

JULIA GILLARD: This is the second set of statistics. The ones that were published earlier this year we said it was too early to tell. Now these statistics point to the same trend. We say these statistics require investigation. It is not good enough for Tony Abbott to just guess an explanation that seems unlikely, that is, a major change in prescribing practices despite the fact there has been no major initiative on prescribing practices. So we are saying look at the evidence and if the evidence shows it’s about the co-payment increase then it is time to react.


For more information contact: Kimberley Gardiner 0401 533 002