The coalition of health bodies who are gathered under the banner of the Consumer Health Forum are releasing a letter calling on Nicola Roxon to reverse the deferral of PBS funding for a list of seven new drugs. This list includes gilenya, as I have previously discussed, the multiple sclerosis medication that I am currently taking as part of a program funded for a 12 month period by the pharmaceutical company.

Unsubsidised, it falls into the $40,000 + bracket.

I don’t take my entitlement for publicly-funded drugs for granted. As Nicola Roxon says, there are other areas of need in the health system. Hell, if we were to operate strictly according to the “greatest good for the greatest number” principle, then all the money spent on my healthcare should be ploughed straight into providing clean water to children in developing countries who are dying for the lack of it. As a “person living with multiple sclerosis” (another label — just what I need in my life), I am infinitely more privileged than many perfectly healthy people living in Australia, let alone in slums and refugee camps and war-zones.

But the short-term savings of withholding these medications does not make sense even on the basis of economic rationalism, let alone social justice. In the case of multiple sclerosis, all of the other medications suggested by my neurologist are somewhere in the general price-bracket of “hideously expensive” and with side-effects or possible side-effects that I find difficult to contemplate. Although believe me, I have still spent a lot of time contemplating.

My previous medication was less Rolls-Royce — but it wasn’t doing the job. And that had a cost to the taxpayer, too — the short but I’m guessing still costly-to-the-taxpayer hospitalisations and rehabs and etc etc. Over my lifetime, I’m going to cost the tax-system far more than I am ever likely to pay into it — although I live in hope of falling into the tax bracket that Tony Abbott assures us does not really count as wealthy in today’s Australia. If the MS was going to kill me, I’m sure there would be economic rationalists who would say that it should be allowed to do so, unless some kind philanthropist took it into their heart to rescue me.

However, even untreated it would probably not shorten my life expectancy very much — just make it unpleasant and unproductive. Unproductive in tax terms, among other things. I like paying tax. It means that I’m earning. Not enough, sadly, to be able to afford non-subsidised gilenya, any more than I can afford a private jet.

UPDATE: Since this article was posted Nicola Roxon has announced that Gilenya and the other new medication will be included on the PBS from September 1.

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