Thursday, November 09, 2006

I'm a taxpayer with a cervix AND I VOTE

'But former committee member and Newcastle University professor of clinical pharmacology David Henry said it was the committee's job to get the best deal it could for taxpayers,' says the Age this morning.

Fancy that, and here's me thinking a committee with a name like the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee might have a job like, oh, say, getting the best deal it could for patients. Could their thinking be that Professor Ian Frazer's anti-cervical-cancer vaccine is for the use of women, who, let's face it, aren't very big taxpayers? (And gosh, I wonder why we're not.)

You wonder how they arrived at this conclusion. You wonder why this drug costs what it costs, and just exactly why drug companies can gouge reap their 'substantial profit margins' so apparently freely. You wonder what price they put on the life of a woman, in arriving at their conclusions. You wonder what the answer would have been if Professor Frazer had developed a vaccine that prevented some strains of prostate cancer.

And, most of all, you wonder about the presence on the Pharmaceutical Advisory Benefits Committee of this man: someone from the well-known right-wing think-tank the Centre for Independent Studies. Someone whose publications include a book on the 'adverse' effects of no-fault divorce laws and an online article about how capital punishment isn't as black as it's painted. Someone whose highest academic qualification appears to be an MA, whose most mentionable achievement appears to be his membership of the CIS, and who appears to have no medical or pharmacological qualifications at all.


BK said...

Could their thinking be that Professor Ian Frazer's anti-cervical-cancer vaccine is for the use of women, who, let's face it, aren't very big taxpayers?

Em. Given the discrepancy between the amount of money and publicity given to breast cancer versus prostate cancer research (incidence, mortality and five year survival of both are similar), I'd quibble with your conclusion.

Although the cynic in me says that since most men dying of prostate cancer have stopped paying taxes and are sponging, y'know, pensions from the Govt you might be right.

Pavlov's Cat said...

If I were to roll back the years and find myself back in my stolid Second Speaker slot on the Adelaide Girls' High Debating Team, my answers to that would probably be as follows:

(a) that the breast cancer campaign has largely been powered by women in various ways,

(b) that breasts are sexualised and fetishised by blokes, who by and large have a very, nay, excessively high bazoomba awareness, whereas cervixes are icky girl things, eww,

(c) that women, having by and large much more sense, will go to the doctor if they find a breast lump, whereas until very recently men were keeping their mouths shut about their prostate symptoms and dying like flies because they didn't want doctors touching their bits (because either doctors were men, which meant it was, well, you know, or they were women, which meant they weren't any good).

And (d) it was about bloody time.

mariamaria said...

Hello! Great my country, they are just afraid that if they give this vaccine to teenagers that they will all become sluts. They think cancer is the better option.

Mindy said...

So what do we do about this? I don't want my daughter to have to go through horrible 'smear tests' if she doesn't need to. I doubt very much that a vaccine will make her go out an have sex when she's a teenager, she'll do that when she's ready vaccine or not.

How do me make a fuss and get this reconsidered?

Mindy said...

sorry, how do we

Another Outspoken Female said...

I think some valid comments were made. At $400 a shot and without enough longterm research giving us any idea how effective the vaccine actually is I personally think its close, but no cigar. Would it really do away with the pap test? HPV is the most common cause of cervical cancer, not the only one. For the cost of vaccinating just the women in one medium sized town, perhaps we could educate women as to one of the vital reasons to use condoms - because they are likely to be more effective longterm than the vaccine.

Hey, but what do I know? I'm not a pharmeutical company exec being paid gizillions.

Kate said...

Good question Mindy. I think we should try to start a letter-writing campaign to our local MPs at the very least, and possibly to the papers as well.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Maria, about the fear of girls going out and having sex: yes, exactly. For various reasons I didn't want to spell this out; most Australians know what the (conservative) political agenda is behind this.

Mindy: I'm sure it will be reconsidered eventually. One thing I do know, because my sister used to work for one, is that the drug companies will charge as much as they can get away with, and that is one place to look and lobby.

But it can't take the place of smear tests, at least not at this early stage. Pap smears pick up pre-cancerous lesions of all kinds. Gardasil is a vaccine against the papilloma virus, which is sexually transmitted and which causes only some, not all, of the strains of cervical cancer. The ideal is vaccine AND pap smears AND condoms .., whoops, hi AOF -- comments crossed, clearly on the same page.

I'm not saying it's not a justifiable decision, only that I have grave suspicions about several facets of the way it was arrived at.

Kate said...

Outspoken, this is true, but why does it have to be an either/or solution? Sexual education plus a cheaper shot?

I also think it's right for us to be skeptical of pharmaceutical companies and test everything and do our best to ensure the safety of all medications. I don't want to come across as a drug company shill, but then again, sometimes new drugs and vaccines are pretty damn amazing. I don't think there's anyone here who misses polio, f'r instances.

Kate said...

Update: the PM says the vaccine will end up on the PBS "it's just a question of when and at what price", I think he said.

Damn, I hate it when he does something I agree with.

shula said...

Pavlov! I felt compromised even hitting that guy's site!

BK said...

Facetiousness aside, for a moment, whereas (a) to (d) might be true, I don't think they're relevant to your conclusion.

To say that the Govt wants not to give benefits to women because they don't pay much tax is beyond cynical.

The government (any government) might be evil, but it's not completely stupid. It *is*, wrongly, in the business of making money but there are far more effective ways of doing that. A Au$400 vaccine vs loss in tax revenue over a productive lifetime is a bit of a no-brainer.

I think the major reason for the difference in prostate and breast cancer spending is that breast cancer therapy actually makes a difference, whereas once you get prostate cancer, even (especially!) if you go into remission, you're doomed. It tends to affect older men so they die of something else before the (painful) bone metastases get them.

In medicine, as in science, it's easier to get funding for something that actually works, and works now.

Now, saying that the govt does not want to fund the vaccine because they think otherwise it would lead to girls having sex is a different matter.

BK said...

Ha. . Is there an election looming?

sikamikanico said...

Even if it costs the government a lot of money, well, how much is the budget surplus now? Someone should tell Costello "You can't take it with you when you go."

If it really is a moral issue, maybe the Abbott et all should consider the morals of the men taking subsidised viagra...

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