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Thursday, 12 August 2004
Page: 26385

Senator NETTLE (5:47 PM) —It is a fair point from the minister that the company has the option of resubmitting an application to the PBAC or going to the review committee. The side letters to the trade agreement on the PBS say explicitly that Australia is providing opportunities to apply for an adjustment in the reimbursement amount. The side letter describes what the review process will do. If you are a pharmaceutical company that has the option of putting back your claim to the PBAC, which makes decisions explicitly about the cost-effectiveness of the drug, or the option of going to a review mechanism that has terms of reference that include providing for an adjustment to the reimbursement amount and support for innovation and research and development, then to me that choice is clear. If you are a pharmaceutical company with the option of a system that rewards innovation and provides opportunities for price changes or the option of another system in which the principles for making that decision include cost-effectiveness as well as medical outcomes, the choice is clear. The minister is right to say they have a choice. Perhaps we have different views as to which path the pharmaceutical company would go down to achieve those outcomes.

I want to go back to the minister's previous answer that the reason we have this review mechanism is that it was sought. Can the minister be any more explicit about who requested the changes—whether they came directly from Bob Zoellick, the trade representative, or whether the minister is aware of the US pharmaceutical companies putting pressure on the trade representative's office to request those changes? Can the minister confirm that this was an issue that the President of the United States raised directly with the Prime Minister during his visit to Australia last October, as the Prime Minister commented on 2UE at the time? Maybe the minister can advise what the nature of those discussions was and whether any action was taken by Australian officials or ministers in response to the US President's specific direction around this issue.