I wrote about the Australia import restrictions on RU486 back in December, when this article by Mary Lander appeared in the Medical Journal of Australia: “The fight for a life-saving drug: a personal perspective”. RU486 is a progesterone antagonist – it blocks the action of the hormone progesterone in the body. This makes it useful for inducing abortion, or for emergency contraception. It is also useful for the treatment of certain tumours, such as the brain tumour meningioma.
Crispin Hull from the Canberra Times is now onto the story. From his article “Pro-life policy on RU486 condemns tumour sufferers to die“. Hull outlines the series of obstacles to obtaining RU486 if you’re unlucky enough to be ill in Australia:
Scores of drugs are available to shut off the production of various hormones that tumours feed on. They help people with lots of types of cancers and benign tumours. But pity help you if your tumour happens to be progesterone-receptive. If you want effective treatment with RU486 you, your doctor and your pharmacist will be dragged through a bureaucratic quagmire all because of prejudice, phobia, bias, political cowardice and religious zealotry.
To import the life-saving drug you have to get a special permit from the Therapeutic Goods Administration under the special access scheme. It takes time. Too much time in the case of Senator Peter Cook, who died before he could get a permit.
Once you get a permit, you have to source the drug. The TGA does not help with sourcing, even though Customs regulations suggest that the permission to import should include the name and address of the supplier.
Sourcing the drug in France or China takes critical time.
Once a patient gets a permit and a source, the drug has to clear Customs which requires production of the original permission and more cost and delay. And speaking of costs, the drug is not under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. A daily pill to keep Lander’s benign tumour at bay costs about $4000 a year.
Rudd and Roxon? Fix this.