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Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

A formula for trouble

A Goulburn Valley paediatrician is calling on the federal health minster to reverse a decision to restrict doctors prescribing a specialised infant allergy formula.

KAITLIN THALS November 15, 2012 4:10am

A leading Goulburn Valley paediatrician is calling on the federal health minster to reverse a decision to restrict paediatricians prescribing a specialised infant allergy formula.

Paediatrician for more than 30 years, Peter Eastaugh, said the changes would cause a substantial disadvantage to many children, in particular children living in regional and rural Australia.

Due to the recent Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee recommendation to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme regarding the listing of Synthetic Amino Acid Infant Formulae, local paediatricians can no longer prescribe the formula to patients.

Children who need this formula are mostly milk or soy protein intolerant or show multiple food protein intolerance.

Dr Eastaugh said he had about six patients affected by the changes which came into affect on July 1.

He said patient options had been reduced to either paying up to $700 to see a private specialist who could prescribe the formula, or jumping on the public waiting list at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital — with a wait of up to two years.

Dr Eastaugh contacted Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek last month, outlining his concerns in a letter. He has not received a response.

According to the Department of Health website, the change was recommended by the PBAC following a concern over the increase of prescriptions of synthetic infant formulae, and a larger than expected proportion of infants with cow’s milk protein intolerances who start on an amino acid formula without first trying a protein hydrolysate formula.

It said children who clinically required the infant formula would continue to receive the items through the PBS. The revised restrictions are changes to how these medicines were prescribed, not who was eligible.

‘‘It appears that the PBAC have, based upon allegations of inappropriate prescribing placed restrictions upon the prescribing of these infant formulae by general paediatricians, resulting in a substantial inconvenience for practicing general paediatricians,’’ Dr Eastaugh said.’’

‘‘It appears that this committee does not take into account or responsibility for the impact of their decisions on practitioners, let alone the infants involved, particularly for rural children where the degree of disadvantage is amplified because of the tyranny of distance.’’

Dr Eastaugh said the new requirements suggested that paediatricians needed to consult with an allergist, a consultant immunologist or gastroenterologist ‘‘none of whom were available in rural Australia’’.

He called on the Federal Health Minster to review this ‘‘urgent’’ situation.

‘‘A review of the function of the PBAC (is) strongly recommended, that they consult with practitioners in the field — not just metropolitan — in relation to changes to prescribing that will have a significant health impact on children.’’

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