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Byron Shire
May 18, 2021

Pollies cross swords over cancer treatments

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Chris Dobney

A war of words has broken out between state Tweed MP Geoff Provest and federal representative Justine Elliot over the price of anti-cancer drugs.

Yesterday Mr Provest issued a media release echoing concerns expressed by the Cancer Council Australia and the Australian Private Hospitals Association that changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) will force costs for commonly used cancer drugs back onto private hospitals, community pharmacists and, in turn, local cancer patients.

‘Recent moves from the federal government to tighten the PBS will leave private hospitals who treat cancer patients and local pharmacists who dispense life saving drugs out of pocket,’ Mr Provest said.

‘It is inevitable that these costs will be passed on to cancer patients, leaving individual patients forced to pay thousands of dollars extra for vital cancer treatments, should these changes proceed unopposed.’

He went further, saying Ms Elliot was ‘effectively denying [north coast cancer sufferers] the chance to the access affordable life saving treatment they have every right to expect.’

But Ms Elliot described the claims as ‘just part of the usual National Party political spin and deception’.

‘There has been no budget cut to chemotherapy drugs. Since 2007 we have added 30 new drugs to treat 15 different cancers at an additional cost of $1.3 billion to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS),’ she told Echonetdaily.

‘Pharmacists and hospitals can’t charge patients extra for PBS medicines. For cancer drugs patients pay no more than $5.80 for a concession patient or $35.40 for a general patient for the whole course of treatment with that drug,’ she added.

A media release issued by federal health minister Tanya Plibersek said that the medicine in question is now off patent and as it now costs pharmacists less to purchase it is only reasonable that the government rebate should fall in line.

Docetaxel is an old cancer drug, and like all off-patent medicines is subject to price disclosure. On 1 December the reimbursement amount the government pays pharmacists who dispense the drug will be brought into line with the market price – the price pharmacists pay their suppliers.

‘Inflated prices have meant the government has paid in some instances $2,800 above the market price for this drug,’ the minister said.

‘The 1 December change is part of the government’s landmark price-disclosure reform that reduces the price of more than 1000 different generic drugs by as much as $15 per packet for patients. By paying less for old, off-patent drugs, we can afford more of the newest, most innovative cancer treatments.’

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  1. It all comes down to money!

    Where is any consideration given to “does it work”, “is it effective”, “is it necessary or is there a better alternative”.

    Maybe even if “someone” actually paused to consider “what causes cancer” then maybe chemo would not be necessary, perhaps chopping breasts off (just to make sure), perhaps cutting out lymph nodes and causing Lympheodema, would all not be necessary – but then a whole industry would go out of business and they wouldn’t make any money – this includes oncologists and surgeons!


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