PBS cuts would hit the poorest and sickest

28 Mar 2002

AMA President, Dr Kerryn Phelps, said today that major budget cuts to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) would inevitably cause greatest harm to the poorest and the sickest people in the community.

Dr Phelps was responding to a report in The Age newspaper suggesting that the Federal Government is planning Budget cuts to the PBS of $2 billion over four years.

"The report indicates that the Government plans to make the savings through tighter controls on prescribing of PBS drugs," Dr Phelps said.

"The AMA would have grave concerns if the reports are accurate and these PBS cuts really turn up in the Budget.

"Despite the fact that such controls would not save anything like $2 billion, it is blatantly wrong to attribute escalating PBS costs to doctor prescribing.

"Doctors are already subject to draconian regulation and approval mechanisms under the scheme. Any further control would be tantamount to stopping prescriptions for some drugs altogether.

"Worse, it would mean that the most disadvantaged and the most ill in the community would be denied important drugs at an affordable price to preserve and promote quality of life.

"Every patient has a unique health profile and individual care needs, including for prescribed drugs for certain conditions.

"It is bureaucratic ignorance to suggest that a blanket crackdown on prescribing would make huge savings in the PBS. Instead, such moves could lead to poorer health outcomes in the community, particularly for those most in need of care.

"I urge the Government's Budget Razor Gang to look elsewhere for their savings. People's health is more important than the Budget bottom line," Dr Phelps said.

CONTACT: John Flannery (02) 6270 5477 / (0419) 494 761

Sarah Crichton (02) 6270 5472 / (0419) 440 076

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