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Thursday, 11 June 1970

That amendment No. 12 be. disagreed to, but that, in place thereof, - the following new clause be inserted after clause 46 of the Bill: - "46a. Section 101 of the Principal Act is amended by inserting after sub-section (2b.) the following sub-section:-- (2c.) The names and qualifications of persons appointed to be members of the Committee shall be published in the Gazette.'.".

The 2 proposed amendments included in amendment No. 12 are directed to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee.

Dr Klugman - On a point of order. The Minister is unable to reply to the points made by members on the Opposition side about amendment No. 1 1 . Would it not be reasonable for amendment No. 11 to be put.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! Amendment No. 1 1 was put and voted on by the Committee.

Dr Klugman - After a division?

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! No. lt was put and carried on the voices.

Mr Foster - On a point of order. I inquire from you, Mr Deputy Chairman, the reason why you ruled the point of order to bc out of order before you had a chance to listen to the honourable member.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- The question had already been decided upon by the Committee. There is no substance in the point of order.

Dr FORBES - The 2 proposed amendments incorporated in amendment No. 12 are directed to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee. The amendments will require, firstly, the gazettal of the names and qualifications of persons appointed to the Committee, and secondly, the tabling of the report of the Committee setting out the reasons for the recommendations made in all cases where it recommends that a drug or medicinal preparation should not be made a pharmaceutical benefit. The amendments are directed to section 101 of the principal Act which authorises, firstly, the establishment of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee and provides that a drug or medicinal preparation cannot be added to the pharmaceutical benefits list unless recommended by the Committee. The Government will accept the first proposed amendment but it is unable to accept the second.

The assessment of the comparative clinical efficacy of particular drugs, which is an important function of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, is a matter of judgment. There may often be divergent views even among the experts in the field. A prime example of differing views having been expressed on the mode of treatment that should be used for a relatively common condition, is in the case of the management of asthma. The obligation to give and have published the reasons for recommendations would add considerably to the burdens associated with being a member of the Committee and would, I am convinced, lead to difficulties in obtaining suitable people to accept membership. I am sure that if the recommendations of the Committee were tabled in Parliament this would intensify public controversy between medical practitioners and other experts on the merits and demerits of certain drugs. Apart from anything else, this could well cause concern and loss of confidence on the part of patients undergoing a particular course of treatment.

Avenues are already open in professional journals for doctors and other experts to express their views on the non-inclusion of a drug in the pharmaceutical benefits list, and it is by this means that opinions should be aired. All honourable members will see that divulgence of the reasons behind Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee recommendations would have important disadvantages and, therefore, the Government cannot accept the second proposed amendment for the tabling in Parliament of the recommendations of the. Committee.

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