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Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme advertising: the real script.

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Shadow Minister for Health


Health Minister Kay Patterson was today unable to explain to the Senate how a piece of market research including a sample of only 55 people could cost her Department $33,000.

This “research” was conducted in February 2002 to test community awareness of the PBS, apparently to underpin the Government’s current $27 million nationwide advertising campaign. With a sample size of 0.0003% of the Australian population, what possible insight could have been gained about the community awareness of the PBS?

The campaign was also developed without consultation with Australian pharmacy groups, who are now deeply concerned at advice contained in the Government’s advertisements that seems to encourage patients not to take important medications prescribed by their doctor.

A chunk of the funding allocated for the campaign was spent building a pharmacy set from scratch, when the Pharmacy Guild has more than one such set ready and waiting that could have been used had the Minister bothered to ask.

When questioned in the Senate, the Minister could not defend her campaign, but loudly blamed Labor for destabilising the PBS by not allowing her to increase the PBS co-payment. The Government’s proposed co-payment hikes would only add further to the financial burden on sick Australians and further restrict their access to essential medicines.

It is clear that Senator Patterson doesn’t really care what people think about the PBS. The real motivation for this $27 million campaign is to soften people up for an increase in co-payments. The real motivation of this campaign is to make Australians feel guilty about accessing pharmaceuticals through this scheme, pharmaceuticals that their doctors have prescribed for them because they are sick.

Senator Patterson’s only plan for the PBS is to jack up the cost to consumers and her advertising campaign will not succeed in convincing Australians to support the measure.

Labor is committed to the quality use of medicines under the PBS, not over-funded, under-informed advertising campaigns.

For further information contact:

Julia Gillard on 0417 361 637 Jamie Snashall on 0407 438 746 18 September 2003