New subsidy rules for cancer drugs will force patients to endure long waits for treatment in public hospitals, pharmacists say.


Under the new measures, designed to cut down on waste, chemotherapy drugs will attract Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme funding based on the amount used, rather than the number of vials dispensed.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon, who says the new rules are unfair to patients and pharmacists, will move in parliament to quash them.

“Since the dose of cancer medication is determined by the patient\’s body size there is inevitably wastage with the standardised vial the drug is supplied in,” he said.

“With 100,000 new cases of cancer diagnosed in Australia each year and half of all patients being treated privately, the new rules will lead to a shutdown in private dispensing and a swamping of the public health system.” Pharmacist Bruce Heal said the new rules would create problems dispensing Herceptin and Mabthera, used to treat breast cancer and lymphoma respectively.

Mr Heal is the chief executive of HPS Pharmacies, the leading specialist supplier of pharmaceutical services direct to hospitals.

“Both of those drugs will attract a fee of about $300, which is unsustainable for pharmacies and it will force most of these patients back into the public system,” he told AAP.

“As we know, most of the public hospitals are overcrowded at the moment and can\’t cope so this will mean the cancer patients will have to wait for inordinate lengths of time.”

A spokesman for Health Minister Nicola Roxon said the government would delay the introduction of the new rules from July 1 to September 1 to allow for more consultation with industry.

“This is a measure from last year\’s budget, which the government is committed to pursuing to reduce waste in the supply of chemotherapy medicines,” he said.

“Patient safety and access to chemotherapy medications will not be compromised by this measure.”