- Over the next three years a UTS research team will provide expert economic advice on whether or not drugs should be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme
- The team from the Centre for Health Economics Research and Evaluation will review submissions for new drugs, or significant changes to existing drugs, and advise on whether or not a drug meets the criteria for listing on the PBS
A $4 million dollar project at UTS's Centre for Health Economics Research and Evaluation (CHERE) will help ensure that Australians continue to have access to safe and cost-effective medications.
A CHERE research team will provide expert economic advice to the Pharmaceutical Advisory Committee (PBAC) over the next three years that will directly impact which drugs are listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
PBS-listed drugs are those that the meet specific PBAC criteria. They must be safe to take; they must provide high quality, effective treatment; and they must represent true value for money. The cost of these drugs is subsidised by the Australian Government to ensure that they are accessible to the general public.
"Most drugs in Australia are listed on the PBS," said the project's Chief Investigator, CHERE researcher Dr Stephen Goodall.
"If you go to your doctor and get a prescription, you'll only pay a small proportion of the actual price of that drug. It might actually cost thousands of dollars but you'll only pay the prescription charge."
Dr Goodall and his team will review submissions for new drugs, or significant changes to existing drugs, and will provide advice to the PBAC about whether or not a drug meets the criteria for it to be listed on the PBS. They are one of only five such evaluation groups in Australia.
"We're looking purely at the scientific and economic content of [each] submission," Dr Goodall said. "We give advice to the government as to the benefit – such as improved quality of life, or improved prognosis – that the drug offers, and whether that represents value for money in terms of how much the drug costs."
The CHERE team will review between 12 and 16 submissions a year. The work is demanding; submissions run to the thousands of pages and researchers work to a 17-week PBAC timeframe for each submission, but Dr Goodall believes the work is critical for the public to maintain confidence in the Australian health care system.
"Everybody at some point goes to the doctor and takes new medicines. And we're all taxpayers – so this project is relevant to every single one of us," Dr Goodall said.
"What we're essentially doing is making sure that when you go to the doctor, you're able to get a drug that works and is safe.
"As a taxpayer, you can feel confident that you're paying a price that's acceptable – that you're getting value for money relative to all other things we could be spending our health care dollars on."
The project, which will bring between $4 and 6 million to UTS, is the second PBAC tender that CHERE has won, following on from an initial three-year engagement that began in 2009.
CHERE researchers were also recently awarded a $2.5 million grant from the Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute for a Centre for Research Excellence in the economics and finance of primary health care.