Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Council responds to criticism

Matt Woodley

15/10/2019 4:23:36 PM

Chair Andrew Wilson said suggestions of delayed approvals are not new and Australia has one of ‘the fastest systems in the world’.

Medicines Australia has identified policy changes it believes would provide clarity on how much money is spent on the PBS.

Medicines Australia Chief Executive Elizabeth de Somer told Fairfax that an overly bureaucratic approval process means Australia is lagging behind other OECD countries regarding time taken to subsidise new medicines.
The lobby group also commissioned a report which found drugs launched in Australia between 1986 and 2000 helped hospitals reduce costs by $3.47 billion, and that new cancer drugs helped save 3500 lives last year.
Written by Columbia University Business School Professor Frank Lichtenberg – who has produced more than 30 studies on pharmaceutical innovation and receives funding from drug companies and lobby groups – the report analysed the outcomes of pharmaceutical innovation on premature mortality, hospital utilisation and cancer patient outcomes up to 2018.
It also includes ‘key policy areas’ Medicines Australia has identified that it believes would save money and provide clarity on Federal Government expenditure on the PBS.
However, Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Council (PBAC) Chair Professor Andrew Wilson told newsGP the report and its associated criticism is part of efforts by the lobby group, and that Australia has one of ‘the fastest systems in the world’ for the assessment of new drugs.
‘We addressed this question several weeks ago. Medicines Australia is forever trotting out this story that Australia takes too long to approve drugs,’ he said.
‘In fact, there is evidence from an independent group that monitors these [issues] … that there is not a particularly significant delay between the listing of most of medicines in Australia and elsewhere.’
The Centre for Innovation in Regulatory Science review found Australia has the highest percentage of, and greatest increase in, products recommended within one year of regulatory approval (94% in 2018), as well as the shortest median time between regulatory approval and health technology assessment recommendation (19 days).
Professor Wilson also pointed out that Australia engages in parallel processing – simultaneous consideration of new medicines by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and the PBAC – and is already further streamlining listing processes as part of a Strategic Agreement between Medicines Australia and the Government.
‘The first round of those changes were introduced a couple of months ago to try and speed up some aspects of the process and there is another set of recommendations which will be implemented in 2020,’ he said.
‘There are some other issues the department is working on and which [Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt] has spoken about around some of the post PBAC procedure processes, but I’m not the appropriate person to talk on that.’
The Professor Lichtenberg study was released on day one of Medicines Australia’s PharmAus19 conference at Parliament House, and Ms de Somer said it demonstrates pharmaceutical intervention is helping Australians live longer in a way that is cost-effective.
‘Medicines matter, they play a pivotal role in helping Australians live longer and healthier lives. Every innovative medicine made available in Australia will benefit patients, the economy and taxpayers,’ she said in a release.
‘New medicines introduced between 1987 and 2003 contributed an additional 586,714 years of life to Australians aged up to 90 years in 2015. Professor Lichtenberg’s study demonstrates that the introduction of medicines to the PBS is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve the length and quality of life of Australians.
‘This report is a ringing endorsement of medical innovation, and the preparedness of Government to make new medicines available to all Australians who need them through the PBS.’

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