Recommendation to list RU486 on the PBS

Yesterday, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, the independent expert group that makes recommendations on which medicines should be listed on Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), advised the government that medication abortion drug mifepristone should be added to the list.

The next step in the process is a federal government review of what it would cost to list mifepristone, or RU486, on the PBS. Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek has welcomed the recommendation, disputing the notion it would result in an increased abortion rate, and saying it may make a very difficult time for women a little easier.

If listed, the drug would be subsidised for use up to 7 weeks gestation. Health Care Card holders would pay around $12 for the medication, and the general population around $70; however, women will also have to pay out of pocket costs for consultations, ultrasounds, and any other tests deemed necessary by their physician.

It is unknown at this stage what the impact of a listing would be on the cost of medication abortion provided through Queensland’s private clinics, which at present perform an estimated 99% of the state’s pregnancy terminations.