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Monday, 22 June 2009
Page: 3858

Senator LUDWIG (Special Minister of State and Cabinet Secretary) (3:01 PM) —I seek leave to incorporate into Hansard additional information in response to a question from Senator Xenophon last week.

Leave granted.

The answer read as follows—


1.   Longitudinal Study.

  • The Department is aware of the article published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry in April this year, and of research that from time to time tries to draw links between rates of prescription and socio-economic status.

2.   &3.      Volatility in Prescription Rates across Geographic Areas.

  • All prescribing data reflects a complex interaction of prescriber behaviour, patient characteristics and the availability and appropriateness of adjunct or alternative therapies.
  • A simple correlation between socio-economic status derived from postcode and number of prescriptions provides only limited information about the needs of patients or the appropriateness of prescription medicines to meet these needs. There is significant variation in the socio-economic status of individual families even within postcodes.
  • It is not possible to draw any firm conclusions from such studies about the relationship between socio-economic status and choice of treatment therapies, including use of prescription medicines.
  • As the study itself notes, it is not clear whether there is any causal link between socioeconomic status and psychostimulant treatment.
  • One of the reasons the Department of Health and Ageing is funding the development of national ADHD guidelines is to ensure clinicians across Australia have equal access to the best available information when making diagnostic and treatment decisions.
  • I am advised that access to psychostimulants and other medications is strictly controlled and is only possible via prescription by a medical specialist when clinically indicated.
  • The Government would be very concerned if children are being inappropriately prescribed medications for ADHD —just as concerned as we would be if children who needed medications were unable to get them.
  • It is also important for physicians and other clinicians, parents and teachers to have clear, evidence based guidelines on the appropriate management of the condition.
  • The Australian Government funds the National Prescribing Service (NPS) to provide education to health professionals and access to medicines information to the community.
  • As a part of the 2009-10 Budget the Australian Government announced an increase of $21 million over four years to the NPS. This new funding will increase the reach of NPS programs with health professionals, through engaging with more health professionals and specialists.

4.   High Cost of Non-Pharmaceutical Treatments.

  • The Australian Government recognises that both pharmacological and non pharmacological options play an important role in treating ADHD.
  • The Australian Government funds a range of psychological services which can support the non-pharmaceutical treatment of people with ADHD and we do not simply rely on state and territory governments to provide services for these children. These include mental health services available under Medicare and services available in all locations, including rural and outer metropolitan areas available under the Access to Allied Psychological Services initiative and the Mental Health Service, Rural and remote Areas Program.
  • The Early Intervention KidsMatter suite of activities is also ensuring that broader mental health promotion and information is available to children, schools and parents to help them understand the pathways of support available, including psychological therapies.

5.   Benchmarks for State Service Provision.

  • Senator Xenophon asked about benchmarks to apply to state service provision for children with ADHD. States and territories do have a role in providing services to children with severe ADHD through child and adolescent mental health services.
  • However this is not an issue that the Australian Government will simply pass to the states and territories to solve.
  • The Australian Government has an important role in providing early intervention services for children and young people, and the Government is making available a range of psychological services for children with conditions such as ADHD.
  • These psychological interventions are available through all divisions of general practice in Australia, including in rural areas, through the Access to Allied Psychological Services program, through GPs under the Medicare mental health items and through the Mental Health Services in Rural and Remote Areas program. Many of these services are available at no or very low cost to individuals and families.