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Thursday, 1 June 1972
Page: 2485

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:

(1)   How many items are there on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme which require the authority of the Director-General of Health before they can be prescribed.

(2)   How many of these are Beta-Blockers and how many are related to the drug Intal.

(3)   What was the total number of authorities issued by the Director-General last year, and what was the breakdown of this number in the categories of (a) Beta-Blockers (b) Intal and (c) others.

(4)   Is Intal a drug used for the treatment of asthma, and are Beta-Blockers a group of cardiac drugs used mainly in angina, acute coronary insufficiency, etc.

(5)   Why is it considered necessary in the case of these drugs for an authority to be issued by the Director-General of Health before it can be made available under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme to a patient.

Senator GREENWOOD (VictoriaAttorneyGeneral) The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1)   In the Schedule of Pharmaceutical Benefits there are 90 items representing the various forms and strengths of 55 different drugs for which the written authority of the Director-General of Health is required before they can be prescribed as benefits.

(2)   Five of the drugs, comprising seven items in all, are Beta-Blockers (beta adrenergic receptor blocking agents). Intal (disodium cromoglycate) is a unique drug and no other drug in the Schedule of Benefits is related to it.

(3)   The total number of authorities issued by the Director-General in 1971 was 159,842, comprising -

(a)   25,998 authorities for Beta-Blockers;

(b)   83,475 authorities for Intal ('Special Authority');

(c)   50,369 other authorities.

(4)   Yes.

In addition, two Beta-Blockers, Propranolol and Prindolol are now established as being effective in the treatment of severe hypertension. Since April 1972 these drugs have been listed as benefit, on authority, for this condition in addition to the cardiac diseases for which they have been available for some time,

(5)   The requirement for the authority of the Director-General to prescribe certain drugs as benefits is in each instance in accordance with a recommendation of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee. The Committee was set up, under section 101 of the National Health Act, to advise the Minister on the listing of drugs and medicinal preparations as pharmaceutical benefits.

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