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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Clinicians advocate for adoption of international model in Australia’s HTA processes

Health Industry Hub | June 21, 2023 |

Pharma News: The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has expressed its support for the Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Review emphasising its alignment with the goals of the National Medicines Policy (NMP).

While the AMA is not directly involved in the review process, the outcomes of the HTA Review has a significant impact on medical practitioners’ responsibilities, particularly concerning the listings of medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and the addition of Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) items. The AMA strongly advocates for safe and affordable access to essential treatments, making the outcomes of the review crucial for the organisation.

During the initial consultation, the AMA highlighted several key aspects that they believe the Review should prioritise. These include ensuring that medical practitioners feel confident in the safety, efficacy, and accessibility of prescribed medicines and therapeutic treatments for all patients. The AMA also stressed the need for industry support to assist Australian specialists in utilising specific therapeutics effectively. Additionally, the organisation stressed the importance of preventing patients from facing excessive out-of-pocket costs for essential and life-saving treatments.

While acknowledging the need to examine the role of MSAC in relation to co-dependent technologies, the AMA also highlighted areas for improvement in the HTA process. As AMA members are at the receiving end of the process, they shared feedback based on their experiences supporting patients who seek access to medicines not yet approved by HTA. One notable example mentioned was the lack of public funding for the shingles vaccine, Shingrix, which costs up to $600 per dose, leaving immunocompromised patients with no affordable options. The delayed listing of Shingrix on the PBS despite a genuine need and solid evidence for its subsidy exemplifies the rigidity of the current HTA process.

To address these issues, the AMA suggested reviewing international HTA processes, particularly the successful German model. This model allows for immediate reimbursement of pharmaceuticals upon regulatory approval, with simultaneous HTA and pricing negotiations. Such an approach enables patients to access necessary treatments promptly while economic considerations are being assessed. The AMA believes that a similar approach may be suitable for certain pharmaceuticals in Australia.

Drawing lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, which witnessed expedited regulatory processes without compromising safety and quality standards, the AMA asserts that it is possible to streamline procedures while upholding robust standards.

The AMA acknowledged the forthcoming consultations as part of the Review and expressed its willingness to participate actively. They invite the HTA Committee to engage with relevant AMA Committees to facilitate a comprehensive and productive exploration of the HTA process and its improvements.

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