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Lies and distortions won't harm PBS - nor will FTA.



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Media release

Wednesday, 16 June 2004 - MVT46/2004

Lies and Distortions Won't Harm PBS - Nor will FTA

Trade Minister Mark Vaile today rejected political scaremongering that the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement would harm the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and claims that drug prices would increase as a result of the agreement.

"I am appalled that groups claiming to represent Australian health workers are urging US Congress members to vote against an agreement which promises enormous benefits to all Australians," Mr Vaile said.

The groups, led by the left-wing lobby

Doctors' Reform Society, have written to US Congress members claiming Australians and Americans will pay more for drugs as a result of the FTA.

"These politically-motivated claims are absurd and dishonest," Mr Vaile said. "It is incumbent on these critics to demonstrate how they believe drug prices will change as a result of the FTA. They won't because they can't."

"Nothing in the FTA with the US will lead to an increase in pharmaceutical prices. The PBS will remain sustainable and all Australians will continue to have access to affordable medicines."

The Government has ensured that the fundamental architecture of the PBS, particularly the pricing and listing policies, remains unchanged by the Agreement.

Under the FTA, the PBS legislation will not change, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee will remain the gatekeeper to the system and cost effectiveness will remain the critical criteria

in judging applications to list a drug.

An independent report by Centre for International Economics says the limited pharmaceutical measures in the FTA "will have no significant net effect on the PBS or the economy."

"Throughout the FTA negotiations, we rejected any proposal that would undermine what is regarded as a world-best system for delivering affordable medicines to all Australians."

Contact: Matthew Doman (Ministerial) on 02 6277 7420 - Justin Lee (Departmental) on 02 6261 1555