Productivity Commission confirms value of medicines

09/20/05

The new finding that increased spending on medical technologies is a positive investment for Australia should be an important input into government decision-making, the Chief Executive Officer of Medicines Australia, Kieran Schneemann, said today.

The Productivity Commission report released today is important reading for many reasons. For too long, increased health spending on medical technologies and pharmaceuticals has been seen as a "cost" to the nation when in fact it is an investment for Australia and Australians live longer and more productive lives as a result.

"For example, Australians have been told recently and regularly that the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme is 'out of control'. The latest figures for the year to July certainly do not bear this out," Mr Schneemann said.

"The Productivity Commission has raised the point that we need better information about the costs and benefits of technology. An accurate forecast of where the PBS will go over the next five to 10 years would be highly beneficial.

The Productivity Commission report found that "advances in medical technology have brought large benefits but have also been a major driver of increased health spending in recent years".

Among these advances are lower surgery rates from medicines to treat stomach ulcers, with the number of people going under the knife being reduced from 97,000 to less than 19,000 in just the past decade.

In the United States, new cancer medicines account for more than half of the gains in cancer survival rates since 1975. Over that time, the overall survival rate has increased from 50 to 63 percent, saving hundreds of thousands of lives. These figures would be comparable in Australia.

The Productivity Commission also reported that new and innovative medicines for asthma reduced the mortality rate in Australia from this condition by 28 percent during the 1990s, and up to 70 percent of the reduction in deaths from heart disease may be due to new medicines and medical intervention.

This report is further evidence that medicines add more years to life and more life to years.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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