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Tuesday, 11 August 2009
Page: 1

Senator Cormann asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Ageing, upon notice, on 20 May 2009:

(1)   What biopharmaceuticals are funded, directly or indirectly, by the Commonwealth for the provision of health care in Australia.

(2)   For each biopharmaceutical identified in (1) above:

(a)   what is the relevant disease, illness, or condition being tested;

(b)   what has been the total amount of Commonwealth expenditure to date to fund the biopharmaceutical and can that amount be broken down into:

(i)   expenditure for 2008, and

(ii)   anticipated funding for 2009; and

(c)   does a patent application or patent apply to, or is associated with, that biopharmaceutical; if so, can details be provided on that patent application or patent.

(3)   Can a list be provided identifying any documents which are in the possession of the   department referring or relating to the impact that such biopharmaceuticals have on:

(a)   the provision and cost of health care in Australia;

(b)   the provision of training and accreditation for health care professions;

(c)   the progress in medical research; and

(d)   the health and wellbeing of the Australian people.

(4)   For each document identified in (3) above, can an accurate summary of its contents be  provided.

Senator Ludwig (Special Minister of State and Cabinet Secretary) —The Minister for Health and Ageing has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

(1)   Information regarding the direct Commonwealth funding of biopharmaceuticals is not available in an aggregated format and its compilation would involve a significant diversion of resources which I am not prepared to authorise. The Australian Government also indirectly contributes to other biopharmaceuticals, which are funded by States and Territories through the National Healthcare Agreements (NHA). However, expenditure on biopharmaceuticals through NHAs is not identified separately so a specific breakdown cannot be provided. Biopharmaceuticals may also be funded through private health insurance. Private health insurance is indirectly funded by the Commonwealth Government through the private health insurance rebate. However, expenditure on biopharmaceuticals through private health insurance, is not identified separately in the Private Health Insurance Administration Commission data collection, so a specific breakdown cannot be provided. If a pharmaceutical forms part of general treatment and there is a ‘supply’ of that drug to an individual on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), a private health insurance benefit cannot be payable. However, if there is no ‘supply’ of that drug, a health insurer may choose whether or not to pay a benefit. In many cases private health insurers choose to pay a limited general treatment benefit for pharmaceuticals that are not listed on the PBS and do not pay anything for pharmaceuticals that are listed on the PBS, regardless of whether they are ‘supplied’ on the PBS. If a pharmaceutical which is supplied on the PBS is covered in a policy for hospital treatment or hospital-substitute treatment, a benefit may be payable in respect of the co-payment.

(2)   Refer to Part 1.

(3)   Part 3 draws directly from the Terms of Reference for the Senate Inquiry into Gene Patenting. The Department is unable to provide this level of detail as the considerable work involved would require a significant diversion of resources from other departmental operations which I am not prepared to authorise. The Department’s submission to the Inquiry provides a summary of the key issues addressed in the Terms of Reference. It is available on the website of the Senate Community Affairs Committee at

(4)   Refer to Part 3.