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Tuesday, 28 April 1987
Page: 1868

Senator ZAKHAROV —Will the Minister representing the Minister for Health inform the Senate of the reason for the Government's decision not to increase the pharmaceutical benefit for dilantin when the price rises in June, when many sufferers from epilepsy are dependent on it for life support?

Senator TATE —Senator Zakharov and other honourable senators may know that dilantin is a unique drug used in the treatment of epilepsy. I am informed by the Minister for Health that a dispute between the Government and the manufacturer, Parke-Davis Pty Ltd, has arisen over the price of the drug and has resulted in a special patient contribution being imposed since 1 April last year. Parke-Davis has wanted the Government to agree to a price for dilantin which simply has not been justified, according to the evidence given to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Pricing Bureau. In March this year Parke-Davis announced a further 6 per cent price increase, but once again the Pricing Bureau, which reviewed the data submitted by the company, considered that only a 5 per cent increase was justified. As a result, the special patient contribution has been increased by 10c to, I think, $1.30. The special patient contribution, it may be noted, goes directly to the company, Parke-Davis. The Government subsidy being available means that patients do not have to meet the full dispensed price, which could be up to $16.80 at private dispensing rates.

If the Government were to give in to demands to increase prices for drugs simply to increase company profitability, and where it could not be justified, as in this instance, the system of pricing drugs under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme would fall apart. Over the past 12 months Parke-Davis has been approached on a number of occasions both by the Department of Health and by the Minister for Health, who is anxious to resolve the dispute, but the company has persisted in its attitude on the issue. The Minister suggests that people affected by the dispute should write to Parke-Davis expressing their concern at the company's attitude.