Queuejumping rhetoric a new low in fight against reproductive rights

Keane’s tweet was prompted by this news story regarding the opinions of George Christensen, Federal MP for Dawson.

the Member for Dawson said priority should be given to other drugs, particularly those that helped cancer patients and extended the lives of people who were sick.

“I simply don’t understand why this particular drug would find its way to the head of the queue before those drugs,” Mr Christensen told the Daily Mercury.

For those of us with a smidge of oncological knowledge, Christensen’s argument that cancer-treating/life-extending drugs should be given precedence over RU-486 in being added to the PBS is particularly whargarrbling, because RU-486/mifepristone is a cancer-treating/life-extending drug, and previously the Howard-era-originating import restrictions made sourcing for mifepristone to treat progesterone-sensitive tumours so difficult that many patients have died prematurely while awaiting treatment.

Shame that the journalist reporting Christensen’s objections didn’t know enough background on RU-486 to mention its other medical uses in the Mercury article.

Categories: culture wars, ethics & philosophy, gender & feminism, Politics

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9 replies

  1. Isn’t the PBS subsidy available only for approved purposes though? So theoretically they could approve the subsidy only when prescribed for cancer treatment purposes.
    I thought the PBS board did actually do financial calculations based on cost and an estimate of how much increased life quality it gets in return on average. They have to in order to be able to make reasonably objective choices as to what drugs to subsidise. In the case of RU-486 to cause abortions I’d guess that its cheaper than alternative of a surgical abortion.

    • Perhaps theoretically they could approve the drug only for cancer treatment, but when its usage as an abortifacient is for a perfectly legal procedure (termination of pregnancy) then it would seem to me to be an odd restriction and one that sets them up to have to consider the same drug again separately at a later date for the abortifacient usage. I can’t see why the redundant second hearing would strike anybody as a good idea.

  2. tigtog – I could be mistaken, but I thought there were other cases where drugs are available under the PBS only for certain purposes. For other purposes, although they may be effective and can be prescribed, they aren’t subsidised. Essentially because previously the calculation had been made that the limited amount of money available for drug subsidies is more efficiently spent elsewhere.

    • Approving only some uses due to cost effectiveness makes total sense, Chris. It’s just that if any “queuejumping” for mifepristone has taken place, it’s almost certainly due to its cancer-treatment properties, and if the cost-effectiveness argument also holds for its abortifacient properties, then it simply makes sense to approve that usage as well as the cancer-treatment usage at the same hearing.

  3. Oh I see what you’re saying now. When I read his comments about the queue I interpreted that as meaning it went to the head of the queue in terms of being approved, not the queue for being considered to be approved.
    Sadly for many cancer patients (many of the treatments whilst they may well have a positive effect don’t make the cost/benefit analysis cut. True for other drugs treatments too which is why you see public media campaigns to try to force politicians to approve them anyway.

  4. There are processes for approving & subsidising incredibly expensive drugs for certain diseases/conditions etc, but which are then only limited to certain prescribers or various other conditions. I’m pretty sure its the “Highly Specialised Drugs” program.
    But yes, getting the drug/condition etc listed there is very difficult. As, I suppose, it should be when using public monies.

  5. Who is the woman he knows of who died, and how?

  6. “whargarrbling”, brilliant.

  7. Death from mifepristone:
    The entire comment presumes that there is a queue to jump.
    From 1996-2006 mifepristone was only available with the approval of the Minister.
    From 2006-2012 mifepristone had the same status as any other drug which was approved overseas but not in Australia – see https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2007/187/3/early-medical-abortion-cairns-queensland-july-2006-april-2007
    At some point during that time Marie Stopes International sponsored the approval process, and received approval in August 2012. There is no evidence that this approval was fast-tracked in any way. It is solely for terminations in early pregnancy. http://www.tga.gov.au/hp/information-medicines-mifepristone-gymiso.htm
    After this MSI submitted an application to the PBAC for the drug to be subsidised (on the basis of cost-effectiveness when compared to surgical termination). The PBAC has recommended this however the final decision lies with the Minister, and with the Minister-in-Cabinet if the estimated cost is more than $10million pa.
    There is no evidence that there ever was a queue to jump, or that mifepristone has been afforded any special treatment.
    [I’m tempted to get the training, but then I’d have to think about what I’d do with it.]

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