The abortion drugs RU486 could be available within weeks for as little as $12 after the federal government’s expert advisory body recommended it be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, made up of medical experts and health economists, recommended listing mifepristone and misoprostol – the two drugs known together as RU486 – for termination of a pregnancy of up to 49 days gestation.
The committee found the effectiveness of the drugs was similar to that of surgical termination, but was less costly.
Health Minister Tanya Plibersek welcomed the committee’s recommendation, noting the drug was on the World Health Organisation’s list of essential medicines and had been used successfully by tens of millions of women.
She said the committee’s recommendation was only a ”first step” in listing the drug, but expected the drug to be listed ”sooner rather than later”.
”I would expect this process to take a few weeks. I would expect that a decision would be made before the election. It’s not my intention for this to become a political football,” she said.
Ms Plibersek said her department would need to ensure there was a steady and good quality supply of the drug and reach agreement on price before the government decided whether to list the drug.
If the drug was listed on the PBS, women would pay $36.10 for each of the two pills, while those with concessions would pay only $5.90 per pill. Currently, the drugs cost between $250 and $350, while surgical abortion costs between $300 and $500.
Ms Plibersek said listing the drugs would provide greater choice to women who could not afford abortion or who lived in country areas.
”Some women are travelling a day or two by bus and having to find money for overnight accommodation in a city,” she said. ”If the drug is listed I would hope it would make an extremely difficult time in a woman’s life a little bit easier.”
Asked about the drug before the committee’s recommendation was made public, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said he would accept the committee’s advice. ”I would accept the advice of the technical experts,” he said. ”I understand that there are lots of people who are concerned to try to ensure that we have a humane society which deals decently with women who are in a very difficult position and I certainly have always said that the whole issue was to try to ensure that we empowered women, to try to ensure that we gave women in a very difficult position all the support they needed to make what was for them the best possible choice.”
Ms Plibersek said she did not expect the listing of the drugs to lead to more abortions, but overseas experience suggested many women had chosen medical termination over surgical abortion.
Women who had used the drugs overseas reported appreciating the ability to take the second pill in the privacy of their own home with family support.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.