Subsidy sought for RU486
Public funding to lower the cost of RU486 and one other so-called abortion drug will be considered at a meeting of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Commission in March.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration last year approved an application to import RU486 (mifepristone) and another drug GyMiso (misoprostol) by MS Health, a not for profit subsidary of the reproductive health group Marie Stopes International.
A spokeswoman for Marie Stopes International today confirmed to Fairfax Media that the organisation had decided to pursue subsidies for the drugs via the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
''Funding for Mifepristone Linepharma and GyMiso through the PBS will ensure that women have access to early termination under the care of their medical practitioner who has been specially trained for this, which further reduces the pressure on our public hospital system,'' she said.
A ministerial veto over the drug was lifted by the Parliament in 2006 but until last year it had only been available from 187 authorised doctors, who at last count had prescribed the drug to 22,330 women.
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee is an independent statutory body that makes recommendations to the minister for health about which drugs and medicinal preparations should be made available as pharmaceutical benefits.
Placing drugs on the PBS means the cost to consumers is lower, effectively making them more widely available.
Both mifepristone and misoprostol drugs have been endorsed by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and are on the World Health Organisation’s list of essential medicines.
The Marie Stopes spokeswoman said if the drugs were listed on the PBS it would ''reduce the trauma and cost of accessing legal termination services incurred by a woman who has already chosen to terminate her pregnancy''.
''More than 3000 women a year are travelling over 100 kilometres to access termination services incurring cost and personal trauma. Medical abortion in their local community, where there is adequate medical back up, will reduce these hardships enormously,'' she said.
Comment from the Minister for Health, Tanya Plibersek, is being sought.