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1.  Access to high cost medicines in Australia: ethical perspectives 
Access to "high cost medicines" through Australia's Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) is tightly regulated. It is inherently difficult to apply any criteria-based system of control in a way that provides a fair balance between efficient use of limited resources for community needs and equitable individual access to care. We suggest, in relation to very high cost medicines, that the present arrangements be re-considered in order to overcome potential inequities. The biological agents for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis are used as an example by which to discuss the ethical issues associated with the current scheme. Consideration of ethical aspects of the PBS and similar programs is important in order to achieve the fairest outcomes for individual patients, as well as for the community.
doi:10.1186/1743-8462-5-4
PMCID: PMC2412887  PMID: 18489760
2.  The views of stakeholders on controlled access schemes for high-cost antirheumatic biological medicines in Australia 
Background
In Australia, government-subsidised access to high-cost medicines is "targeted" to particular sub-sets of patients under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme to achieve cost-effective use. In order to determine how this access system could be improved, the opinions of key stakeholders on access to biological agents for rheumatoid arthritis were explored.
Methods
Thirty-six semi-structured interviews were conducted with persons from relevant stakeholder groups. These were transcribed verbatim, and analysed thematically.
Results
Controlled access to expensive medicines was considered to be equitable and practical; however, there was disagreement as to the method of defining the target patient populations. Other concerns included timeliness of access, excessive bureaucracy, and the need for additional resources to facilitate the scheme. Collaboration between stakeholders was deemed important because it allows more equitable distribution of limited resources. The majority considered that stakeholder consultation should have been broader. Most wanted increased transparency of the decision-making process, ongoing and timely review of access criteria, and an increased provision of information for patients. More structured communication between stakeholders was proposed.
Conclusion
The Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme is adapting to meet the changing needs of patients. Provision of subsidised access to high-cost medicines in a manner that is affordable for individuals and society, and that is equitable and efficiently managed is challenging. The views of stakeholders on targeted access to anti-rheumatic biological medicines in Australia acknowledged this challenge and provided a number of suggestions for modifications. These could serve as a basis to inform the debate on how to change the processes and policies so as to improve the scheme.
doi:10.1186/1743-8462-4-26
PMCID: PMC2231358  PMID: 18096055
3.  The funding and use of high-cost medicines in Australia: the example of anti-rheumatic biological medicines 
Background
Subsidised access to high-cost medicines in Australia is restricted under national programs (the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, PBS, and the Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, RPBS) with a view to achieving cost-effective use. The aim of this study was to examine the use and associated government cost of biological agents for treating rheumatoid arthritis over the first two years of subsidy, and to compare these data to the predicted outcomes.
Methods
National prescription and expenditure data for the biologicals, etanercept, infliximab, adalimumab, and anakinra were collected and analysed for the period August 2003 to July 2005. Dispensing data on biologicals sorted by the metropolitan, rural and remote zones and by prescriber major specialty were also examined.
Results
A total of 27,970 prescriptions for biologicals was reimbursed. The government expenditure was A$53.1 million, representing only 19% of that expected. Almost all prescriptions were reimbursed by the PBS (98%, A$52 million) and the remainder by the RPBS. Approximately 62% of the prescriptions were for concessional patients (A$32.9 million). There was considerable variability in the use of biologicals across Australian states and territories, usage roughly correlating with the per capita adjusted number of rheumatologists. The total number of prescriptions continued to increase over the study period. Etanercept was the most highly prescribed agent (74% by number of prescriptions), although its use was beginning to plateau. Use of adalimumab increased steadily. Use of infliximab and anakinra was considerably lower. The resultant health outcomes for individual patients are unknown. Prescribers from capital cities and other metropolitan centres provided a majority of prescriptions of biologicals (89%).
Conclusion
The overall uptake of biologicals for treating rheumatoid arthritis over the first two years of PBS subsidy was considerably lower than expected. Long-term safety concerns and the expanded clinical uses of these drugs emphasise the need for evaluation. It is essential that there is comprehensive, ongoing analysis of utilisation data, associated expenditure and, importantly, patient outcomes in order to enhance accountability, efficiency and equity of policies that allocate substantial resources to subsidising national access to high-cost medicines.
doi:10.1186/1743-8462-4-2
PMCID: PMC1828161  PMID: 17331230
4.  Recent developments in targeting access to high cost medicines in Australia 
Background
In Australia, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) has developed a set of arrangements to control access to high-cost medicines to ensure their use is cost-effective. These medicines include the tumour necrosis factor-alpha inhibitors (TNFIs) for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. The aim of this first phase of a qualitative study was to explore basic views on the restricted access to TNFIs in order to confirm where further investigation should take place in the next phase.
Methods
Semi-structured interviews were conducted in 2004 with a member of the four relevant stakeholder groups. Participants were asked their opinions about features of the establishment, process and effects of the system of restricted access to TNFIs. Views on the collaboration between stakeholder groups in the decision-making process were also collected.
Results
The principle of 'controlled access' to TNFIs was supported in general. There were concerns regarding some of the specific eligibility criteria. Wider and more transparent stakeholder consultation was judged desirable. Some flexibility around prescribing of TNFIs by physicians, and regular review of the arrangements were proposed. These themes will inform the next phase of the study.
Conclusion
This first phase highlighted a range of issues associated with the PBS arrangements restricting access to TNFIs. Timely review and report of issues and concerns associated with such policy developments that arose in practice are essential. There is a need for a more comprehensive exploration across a wide range of stakeholders with different perspectives that will in turn be helpful in guiding policy and practice around national arrangements to manage access to high-cost medicines.
doi:10.1186/1743-8462-2-28
PMCID: PMC1325248  PMID: 16305742
Access to medicines; tumour necrosis factor inhibitors; pharmaceutical benefits scheme; drug reimbursement

Results 1-4 (4)