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Cancer drugs first up in authority prescription review

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Doctors and patients could have easier access to vital cancer-fighting drugs affirmed under supply changes being considered by the Federal Government’s key medicines advisor.

In the first step in what medical practitioners hope will be swift action to remove most medicines from the burdensome Authority Required PBS Listing, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee has flagged that a review of authority requirements for oncology treatments is the top priority of a meeting to be held in the next few days.

There are currently 447 medicines, including many common treatments, on the Authority Required list, forcing doctors and patients to lose thousands of hours each year because of delays in having calls to the Listing hotline answered and prescription approval given.

While the approval process for the majority of drugs on the list has been streamlined, in its submission to the Commission of Audit the AMA proposed that the system be scrapped.

It cited the results of a survey which found that doctors and patients wasted time equivalent to 25,000 patient consultations each year waiting for calls to the DHS authority free call service to be answered.

The AMA said the pointlessness of the system was underlined by the fact that only 2.8 per cent of calls to the service did not result in prescription authorisation.

The Federal Government has directed that the system be reviewed, and PBAC is due to discuss the Terms of Reference – which were put out for public comment last month, at its July meeting.

The meeting is also due to “give immediate consideration to the existing variations to authority requirements for oncology treatment in public and private hospitals”.

The PBAC has undertaken to examine the Authority Required listings in three tranches, beginning with those medicines subject to the highest regulatory burden, including treatments for cancer, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Recommendations on the listing of these drugs are due to be considered at PBAC’s November meeting.

Listing of second tranche of drugs, including treatments for cardiovascular disease, psychiatric conditions and eye problems, will be considered at a meeting next March, while all remaining drugs on the list – which includes those used in palliative care, will be considered at a meeting in July 2015.

Adrian Rollins