PBS Authority Prescriptions
There are more than 100 medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) that require medical practitioners to obtain authority from the Department of Human Services to prescribe them. Some of these are for cancer treatment, palliative care and pain management.
The most frequently used method is the Authority Freecall service, where an administrative officer decides if the medical practitioner can have the necessary authority.
In 2008-09, 6.4 million calls were made to the Authority Freecall Service, of which only 2.8 per cent did not result in an authority being provided1.
Obtaining an authority is time consuming, which diverts the medical practitioner from patient care.
The Productivity Commission has identified the PBS authority system as an unnecessary administrative burden for medical practitioners and has recommended it be removed (Review of Regulatory Burdens on Business: Social and Economic Infrastructure Services 2009).
A Department of Health and Ageing review demonstrated there was no impact on prescribing behaviour from moving PBS authority medicines to streamlined arrangements - ‘there were no substantial changes relative to historical growth trends observed in either total script volume or total PBS outlays for streamlined authority medicines for the first year of operation’. (Streamlined Authority Initiative Review 2009).
Based on information about Freecall waiting times provided to the AMA by the former Minister for Human Services, Senator Kim Carr, in the time GPs waste each month waiting on the phone to obtain script authority, they could have conducted an extra 25,000 consultations with patients.
The next Government can make a significant improvement to the productivity and efficiency of the medical workforce in Australia by removing the PBS Authority system.