THE HON. CATHERINE KING MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND MEDICARE
MEMBER FOR BALLARAT
LABOR CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION INTO GREG HUNT’S “HIGHLY UNUSUAL” DRUG DEAL
I have asked the Australian National Audit Office to launch an investigation into what Health Department officials have described as a “highly unusual” Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme decision by Health Minister Hunt.
In response to questions raised by Labor in Senate Estimates on Wednesday, officials confirmed Mr Hunt approved a “special pricing arrangement” for a medicine despite the advice of an independent expert panel.
Mr Hunt approved the pricing deal for afatinib (also known as Giotrif) earlier this year.
Labor fully supports the listing of this medicine – an effective lung cancer treatment – because it was recommended by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee way back in December 2013.
The PBAC however withdrew its support for any special pricing arrangement, which allows drug companies to conceal the price of a medicine for commercial reasons.
Indeed since 2014, the Government has maintained that the medicine does not meet the Department of Health’s eligibility criteria for an SPA.
So why did Mr Hunt change his mind and decide to set aside the advice of the PBAC – which officials testified was an unprecedented move – in order to deliver a special deal to this company?
Is it because he wanted the manufacturer’s support for a trial of new payment arrangements announced in the 2018 Budget? The SPA and the trial were both in the Government’s deed of agreement with the company.
Health ministers should always follow the advice of the PBAC. Ministers who ignore or cherry-pick its recommendations risk chipping away at the trust in the drug listing system that has served us so well.
THURSDAY, 31 MAY 2018