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Essential medicines: one story before the election, a different story after.



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M E D I A R E L E A S E

Stephen Smith MP Member for Perth Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing

16/2002 28 March 2002

ESSENTIAL MEDICINES: ONE STORY BEFORE THE ELECTION, A DIFFERENT STORY AFTER

The Howard Government is planning to cut funding for essential medicines by $2 billion over four years in this year’s Budget, according to today’s Melbourne Age.

This is a cut of almost 10% to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), which subsidises prescription medicines for all Australians.

It means patients will either pay more for the medicines they need or be denied new medicines that might otherwise have been listed on the scheme.

This is just another case of the Howard Government having one story before the election and a different one after the election.

Before the election, the Government increased the cost of the PBS by listing arthritis drug Celebrex without appropriate cost controls.

Dr Wooldridge said, at the time, “The fact that it is costing more money means that more consumers are benefiting from the drug.” [Hansard, 7/2/2001]

If it was good for patients to spend more before the election, what does that mean for patients now if the Government cuts funding for essential medicines by 10% after the election?

Presumably, if Treasurer Costello hadn’t gambled away $4 to $5 billion of taxpayers’ money on foreign exchange trades, he and the Government wouldn’t now be looking at crude cost cutting measures for the PBS, amounting to a cut of one in every ten dollars for essential medicines.

Media Contact: Sean Batten (02) 6277 4108 or 0417 696 497