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Reform of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.



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LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

JOINT STATEMENT BY THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION THE HON SIMON CREAN MP AND STEPHEN SMITH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGEING

Reform Of The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

Labor will vote against the Howard Government’s proposals to increase the co-contribution for medicines available under the PBS.

The Treasurer claims Labor is opposing every pharmaceuticals savings measure in the Budget.

He is wrong and he knows it.

The Budget papers say the Government will save $800 million over four years through a range of structural and administrative changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Labor will support these measures which go to the long term viability of the scheme.

These measures include:

• increasing the use of generic drugs where appropriate,

• stopping pharmaceutical fraud;

• improving the listing process for new medicines;

• providing better information and guidance for prescribing doctors; and

• increasing the focus on evidence medicine.

It should surprise no-one that Labor is supporting these measures as we suggested comparable measures in our policy at the last election.

Labor reserves the right to examine the details of these proposals and to monitor the savings they achieve.

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Labor supports these structural savings and indeed we say the Government can still do more.

For example, Labor would support:

• increased focus on the cost and prescribing patterns of new drugs in their first year on the PBS;

• the inclusion of the full cost of the medicine on the label so that consumers are aware of that cost;

• tighter controls on direct to consumer advertising; and

• greater scrutiny of industry marketing.

The Government should respond to Labor’s call and cost these measures in the same way they have costed comparable measures announced in the Budget this week.

These are the right sort of reforms that will help ensure the long term viability of the PBS.

Placing an unfair and an unjustified nearly 30 per cent increase in the cost of essential medicines for pensioners and families under financial pressure has nothing to do with either health policy or the long term viability of the scheme and everything to do with rescuing John Howard and Peter Costello’s budget deficit.

CANBERRA 16 MAY 2002