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Thursday, 4 April 2019
Page: 14931

Health Care

Dear Chair

I refer to your letter of 18 February 2019 concerning petition EN0763 to request the House of Representatives to remove the race and condition restrictions on B12 hydroxocobalamin injections on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

On 1 January 2016, certain products that can be purchased over-the-counter (OTC) were delisted from general availability on the PBS — including the B12 hydroxocobalamin injections. The independent Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC), following consideration of submissions from suppliers and consumer groups, recommended the delisting of these medicines.

Consumers can continue to buy these medicines at competitive prices from pharmacies without the need for a prescription.

The Australian Government is committed to improving the capability of the PBS to meet the needs of Aboriginal and Tones Strait Islander people. The PBAC assists by evaluating and recommending the listing of medications specifically for Aboriginal and Tones Strait Islander people. In making its recommendation to delist B12 hydroxocobalamin injections, the PBAC recommended maintaining B12 hydroxocobalamin injections on the PBS for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients because of the extraordinary health challenges faced by these patients.

This form of differential treatment does not constitute discrimination as it aims at achieving equality between racial groups. My Department has responded to a small number of complaints, including those made to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), about the decision to delist from PBS general availability several OTC medicines. These complaints have alleged discrimination by continuing to provide subsidies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for these medicines through the PBS. As of today, all complaints to the AHRC have been dismissed or withdrawn, following advice provided to the AHRC by my Department.

Thank you for writing on this matter.

Yours sincerely

from the Minister for Health, Mr Hunt(Petition No. EN0763)