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Wednesday, 8 November 1967

Dr FORBES - As to the first part of the honourable gentleman's question, the decision to restrict the quantity of drugs which can be prescribed was made, as he would be aware, by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, which has power under the Act in relation to this. This Committee is concerned with therapeutic considerations. In respect of these particular drugs the . Committee's decision obviously reflected the growing concern throughout the world in relation to the increased quantity of dependence producing so-called soft drugs being consumed. I have heard many arguments and have received many letters in strong terms for and against the decision taken by the Committee. However, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee is the responsible body. It recommended the limitations. I have confidence in the Committee and have accepted its recommendation as an authoritative indication of expert opinion in this field. I am sure that the Committee will review its decision at its next meeting on the basis of any information that has come to it in the meantime in respect of the way in which the limitations have worked. I shall arrange for that to be done.

In respect of the second part of the honourable gentleman's question I point out that the National Health Act distinguishes between approved hospitals and approved nursing homes. Hospitals largely are for the acute stage of illnesses and periods in hospital are normally of short duration. Nursing homes in general are for chronic illnesses and periods in the homes are generally of long duration. Generally, hospitals provide a much higher level of facilities and so on and more staff than nursing homes do and therefore are more expensive. The hospital benefits scheme covers only hospital treatment and not nursing home treatment. The scheme could not be extended to cover nursing home treatment without substantial increases in contributions, and this, I believe, would be unacceptable to contributor's. However, the Government has provided separately for those people who are unfortunate enough to enter nursing homes by the payment of nursing home benefits without the need to insure. This will cost the Government an enstimated $24m for this year.

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