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Pfizer caught using patients to subvert PBAC process.

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Pfizer Caught Using Patients To Subvert PBAC Process Jenny Macklin - Shadow Minister for Health

Media Statement - 16 February 2001

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Multinational drug company Pfizer has been caught cynically using patients to apply pressure to politicians to interfere in the independent Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) process, Shadow Minister for Health, Jenny Macklin said today.

Labor has obtained a copy of a letter sent last year by Pfizer to over 700 patients, requesting that people using its Alzheimers product write to their local Members and Senators to put pressure on the 'decision makers in Canberra' to list its product on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

The product in question, Aricept, and a similar product Exelon were listed on the PBS in February this year. This was the third time that Pfizer had applied for listing with previous applications rejected due to lack of data supporting the product's cost-effectiveness and long term efficacy.

"Pfizer is well aware that the PBAC process is evidence-based and its decisions must not be compromised by political interference, yet here we have an example of them blatantly attempting to do just that," Ms Macklin said.

"The letter states that the company is 'concerned that some of the decision makers in Canberra do not understand the benefits of Aricept. By writing to your local Member of Parliament and explaining how Aricept has helped you, you can help us bring Aricept to all Australians at a price they can afford'.

"This letter is further evidence of the pressure tactics pharmaceutical companies are prepared to engage in to undermine the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee and get their way.

"The Health Minister Dr Wooldridge publicly announced only three new PBS listings last year and Aricept was one of them.

"The head of Roche Products Fred Nadjarian has confirmed that sections of the industry have waged a campaign against the PBAC. In light of this campaign and Pfizer's lobbying practices serious considerations needs to be given to whether self-regulation of the pharmaceutical industry's marketing, promotion and advertising practices is working.

"The Australian Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association has been lobbying hard to convince the public and Government that the industry should be allowed to provide information directly to consumers.

"If this is an example of responsible direct to consumer information, then the Industry will be waiting a long time before it gets any support for its proposals," Ms Macklin said.

Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.