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Pro-life policy on RU486 condemns tumour sufferers to die

At the end of last year Webdiarist Mary Lander contacted us about the use of RU486 in the treatment of various forms of cancer. She wrote:

Perhaps Webdiary would be interested in this research and or interested in generating views on the need for government to fund clinical trials using this drug. I've just had a story published in the Medical Journal of Australia which can be referenced via a link to the MJA site from other websites (but not reproduced): The fight for a life-saving drug: a personal perspective.

In addition to that which I explained in my article, I feel the government should fund the drug via the Special Access Scheme for those patients who have an application approved surely and there are no other viable treatment options that do not carry a high risk of adverse outcome (they'd paid their taxes all their lives and deserve to be treated better. It is hardly their fault that they happen to have a progesterone dependant tumour or cancer and such groups of patients have been disadvantaged for long enough surely).

While 36,000 people die of cancer every year the government has not to date provided funding for such drugs via the so-called Special Access Scheme.

Nothing further will happen on this unless the Australian public demand the government does something about this issue. Certainly with a change of government that may now be possible given the background to this issue and the controversy surrounding the drug due to one of its uses which co-incidentally wouldn't even be relevant for people with life-threatening tumours and cancers.

Mary and I exchanged emails for some time trying to work out a way of presenting the issues in an accessible (non-medical) manner. Fortunately, Mary was wise enough, given my lack of expertise in the area (not to mention chronic shortage of time), to bring the matter to the attention of Crispin Hull of the Canberra Times. As a result, the following article appeared in the Canberra Times on 31 May 2008. Crispin has kindly given us permission to republish his article on Webdiary. Thank you Crispin, and thank you Mary for your persistence on this important subject.


Pro-life policy on RU486 condemns tumour sufferers to die
by Crispin Hull

It is a little more than two years since the Federal Parliament on a conscience vote removed the power of veto of the Health Minister then Tony Abbott over the approval of the abortion drug RU486.

It is 12 years since it was made a prohibited import by the Howard government, to the satisfaction of anti-abortion Independent Senator Brian Harradine, whose vote in the Telstra privatisation Bill was crucial to the then government getting it through the Parliament.

RU486 remains essentially a prohibited import. It remains in a category of its own too hard for doctors and pharmacists to get approval to prescribe it and too hard for drug companies to get approval to make it available. And this is having a sad and costly side-effect. You see, RU486 is not only an abortion drug. It has life-saving effects for patients with cancer and benign tumours, among others. The drug shuts off progesterone a hormone essential for the continuation of pregnancy, but also a hormone that tumours can feed on. Shut out progesterone and tumours' growth will slow or stop.

Scores of drugs are available to shut off the production of various hormones that tumours feed on. They help people with lots of types of cancers and benign tumours. But pity help you if your tumour happens to be progesterone-receptive. If you want effective treatment with RU486 you, your doctor and your pharmacist will be dragged through a bureaucratic quagmire all because of prejudice, phobia, bias, political cowardice and religious zealotry.

Mary Lander, of Torrens, was diagnosed with a benign tumour on her auditory nerve in 2005. Surgery was an option at the risk of the deafness, blindness or other disability that comes with virtually any brain surgery. Her tumour was progesterone-receptive. RU486 was an obvious drug for her. If it had been a different hormone or a different sort of tumour, her doctor would have had no difficulty writing out a prescription or a pharmacist filling it. But it was RU486. There is no Australian manufacturer or supplier because of the right-to-life-inspired import prohibition.

To import the life-saving drug you have to get a special permit from the Therapeutic Goods Administration under the special access scheme. It takes time. Too much time in the case of Senator Peter Cook, who died before he could get a permit.

Once you get a permit, you have to source the drug. The TGA does not help with sourcing, even though Customs regulations suggest that the permission to import should include the name and address of the supplier.

Sourcing the drug in France or China takes critical time. Drug companies do not like to advertise that they are suppliers of RU486 lest they be targeted by anti-abortion groups. You won't see their ads on the internet unlike the plethora of unwanted ads for unwanted drugs that clogs everyone's emails. You see a few medical and information sites and then an avalanche of anti-abortion hysteria.

Once a patient gets a permit and a source, the drug has to clear Customs which requires production of the original permission and more cost and delay. And speaking of costs, the drug is not under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. A daily pill to keep Lander's benign tumour at bay costs about $4000 a year. She can afford it, but she points out that others she has helped to source the drug cannot. One is a pensioner who has lost the sight of one eye and risks the sight of the other with surgery.

The system will fund surgery, carers and all the other costs associated with other treatment, but not RU486 because that is shock, horror an abortion drug. The drug has had some clinical trials. It has been shown to be effective in cases of meningioma (mostly benign tumours of the brain benign meaning slow-growing but not capable of spreading to other organs of the body); ovarian cancer; Cushing's disease and lymphoma.

Another difficulty is arising. The physiological properties of RU486 are now well known it prevents progesterone reception. And the patent on the drug has expired. It means no drug company will be interested in funding clinical trials for new uses of the drug because it could not get a new patent for the new use of a known property of a known drug. For a new use of it to be patentable, it would have to be a new use which was due to an unknown or unsuspected property of the drug.

Drug companies are not philanthropic societies. They want a return. It means government would have to fund the clinical trials. Given the hassle that authorities now place in front of single patients, there seems little chance of that.

This drug is damned as guilty by association.

All of this is cruel. RU486 should be on pharmacists' shelves in Australia and be subsidised under the PBS, at least for benign brain tumours.

It is a classic case of ignorance, fear, loathing and prejudice resulting in bad public policy.

One last irony. Because authorities are making it so difficult for RU486 to be imported as an abortion drug, doctors are resorting to the anti-cancer drug Methotrexate for use to produce chemically induced abortions.

So you can easily obtain a tumour drug to produce an abortion in Australia, but it is near impossible to get an abortion drug to treat a tumour.


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Politicians and their senior bureaucrats

Fiona: Earlier this evening Mary Lander asked us to take down her post "Karma ..."  because of its formatting problems and to publish the following which, as she rightly says, "makes the point I wanted to make but in short and sweet form". 

Australians can vote out politicians when they’ve had enough as we saw with the demise of John Howard but it’s a sad state of affairs when the laws in this country are not enforced against senior bureaucrats who do not comply.


Clause 11(b) of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956 states that Secretary and her authorised officers can grant a permission to import a drug and that the permission shall be in writing and shall specify the supplier of the drug and address.

Section 50 of the Customs Act 1901 states that “a person is guilty of an offence if the person engages in conduct that contravenes a condition or requirement and that includes to omit to perform an act”

Another law that’s never enforced but remains as window-dressing to create an impression that senior bureaucrats are not above the law can be found in the Criminal Code. See the section on the "Proper administration of Government", which refers to “Abuse of Public Office” by Commonwealth public officials (ie. for "dishonestly causing a detriment to another person").

Perhaps some have just had it too good for too long – and it's time that changed.

The Pope was up to his ruffle in it all

Thanks Mary for all that information about the machinations – and you probably earned a cuddle from Paul too :) – but it is surely a little disingenuous to suggest that religious conviction, particularly Roman Catholic as dictated by the current retrograde Pope who appears to be trying to undo Vatican 2, has nothing to do with the allowing or not of an easy to use abortifactant, a simple pill, and paying for it with Medicare.

A pill for abortion is far easier and of greater access potential, especially for those in regional areas, than the clinics currently set up.

It is wrong, methinks, to imagine that the hoo ha that went on was not a religious-based attempt at imposition upon women those rules of that religion. If the pharmaceutical committee had agreed to its efficacy and safety (and all drugs do have some risk, even vitamin pills) then that should have been the end of it for first trimester abortions and help in later term when necessary as within the abortion laws we already have. [Fiona: You mean the criminal law everywhere but the ACT, Angela?]

This was limiting access to abortion to those most vulnerable, the poor and regional by those religiously opposed to the procedure.

Yep, I would definitely blame the Pope. And I hope he apologises for giving the Bishop who covered up and moved the paedophile priests around Chicago the honour of reading at Pope JP2's death and apologises for all the Catholic church cover up and paedophile protection (and accessory after the fact position and feeding more victims – just appalling). I hope this kind of thing stops and never happens again, or, if it does happen again that it is not covered up and allowed to continue by the church or any group, particularly those with personal power of parading themselves as paradigms of virtue to dictate to others that they cannot take a pill, contraception or abortive.

Phew, that was a long sentence. [Fiona: So I took pity on you – it sounded as though you were running out of breath…]


Feminists or narcissists?

Paul, it is a pity that some women who call themselves feminists feel they can do so while exhibiting narcissistic behaviours ie. a pattern of behaviors that show a pervasive need for attention and admiration, as well as a lack of concern or empathy for others. I think it is the latter rather than her self-proclaimed feminist status, that was more relevant in terms of the decision to appoint her as Head of the Department of Health and Ageing, and that of course was a decision made by the former Prime Minister, John Howard.

The feminist agenda to me was always more about equality and the right for a woman to make choices about her own life and directions not narcissism, lack of empathy and conscience. Narcissist and Psychopaths belong in a category of their own.

I recently read an article that made the following reference to the Department:

“…sclerotic department overseen by Halton”

and of course there has also been speculation in some newspapers as to her the future of her career once her contract expires in October this year. One can only hope that any replacement would operate from a position of empathy and conscience rather than narcissistic self-interest.

Angela, I'm loathe to get all the bureaucrats off the hook and blame the Pope for it all. The Catholic Church has a right to express their views on the subject of abortion but neither the Pope nor the Vatican run this country. The Pope and the Vatican is anti-all-abortion (including surgical) and anti-condoms as well but yet surgical abortion and condoms are available in Australia. So how did that difference come about? Government decision-making?

The fact is that John Howard secured a vote from Senator Harradine for the partial sale of Telstra (which he was keen to do because it involved MONEY, and Harradine was a very powerful figure in parliament back in those days and held the balance of power in the Senate). John Howard secured Harradine's vote in favour of the partial sale of Telstra by agreeing to introduce legislation to prohibit the importation of this drug. He did so for MONEY in exchange for limiting women's right to reproductive choice and access to a viable medication for serious medical conditions.

John Howard may think that will earn him a special place in Heaven but I seriously doubt it.

The issues I have raised regarding the administration of the Scheme through which the drug is claimed to be made available for non-abortifacient medical uses is a legitimate issue and in my own personal view more important than the matter of the drug's abortifacient uses (not that I object to anyone using it in abortion as an alternative to surgical abortion if they decided to have an abortion).

Rather than Catholic-Church bashing or putting all blame for this situation to the Pope, I think it's more productive to look at what caused the problem and the issues as they currently stand in Australia.

The patent on the drug expired prior to this drug being registered for use in Australia. No drug company will pay for the preparation of scientific and medical papers to lodge as part of a registration process and bear the cost of the registration process with the TGA itself. The fact is that any drug company that does so, will not be able to compete in a then open market and remain competitively priced to secure the business (clearly they need to recoup their investment but can't do that without a patent). Only the first drug company to lodge an application has to pay the costs but once it's registered anyone who manufactures this un-patented drug can compete for sales in the Australian market.

There are no other sole marketing rights to drugs other than via a patent or an innovation patent. An innovation patent cannot be used if it for a known use of the drug so that's useless as well and there are "no exceptions" as per advice to me from IP Australia.

Unless the incoming government changes that and/or introduces some form of agreement between the government and a drug company for the sole-marketing rights of the drug within Australia and its further development, then it will never happen. Catholic Church bashing will not make that happen either.

The issue of the patent has been problematic in the US and NZ as well. Hence in those countries a doctor's group (probably obstetricians and gynaecologists) became involved and established a company specifically for the importation, sale and distribution of this drug for abortifacient use only and it can be distributed to doctors/patients within their respective countries for such use.

That, however, does not alleviate the problem that exists with respect to access to the drug's other medical uses and even if it were made available as an abortifacient in Australia it does not mean it would be automatically more readily available for progesterone dependant tumours and cancers nor would it be subsidised for such purposes unless the Government agreed to do so via a special appropriation due to eg. "exceptional circumstances" surrounding the background of this drug. They CAN do that at any stage IF they want to and in many cases it would be more cost-effective than paying for disability pensions and carers allowances annually.

A study on that and any recommendations to that effect would have to come from the Department of Health and Ageing and be referred to the Minister for Health for consideration.

They could bypass the Pope altogether as they have done on previous occasions, just as they did when they made surgical abortions and condoms readily available in Australia.

Perhaps now the Mad Monk has been rendered impotent where government decision-making is concerned and IF the incoming government sees fit to appoint someone to head up the Department of Health who has a greater interest in public health issues rather than narcissistic self-interest come October, it could still happen but there is one thing I'm 100% sure of - no amount of Catholic Church bashing will make it happen.


Actually, reading Mary Lander's latest post brings us back to the "perverts in the shrubs" thread with its similar debate between a safety first message re sexuality and child exploitation versus civil liberties and artistic expression, as to Henson's photographs of the young girl.

Because the Catholic Church is at its best when wary of slippery slope precedents that can grow into bigger problems later. EG, first trimester now, late trimester later, euthenasia; eventually a Holocaust.

Nervous Nellie maybe, but probably just as well someone does it, sometimes, if only for the sake of more informative discourse.


Sh-t, fancy me praising the Catholic Church!

Catholics for a free choice

Paul, perhaps you should consider that not all Catholics are anti-RU486, nor are all churches. In fact, the US based 'Catholics for a Free Choice' did a submission to the parliamentary inquiry held here a few years back on access to the drug for abortifacient use and if you'd like to read what they have to say you can do so:

Catholics for a Free Choice.

PS. No Catholics are opposed to access to the drug for medical uses in serious and potentially life-threatening medical conditions.

Yes! I am a Catholic

 Amen to that, Mary. Common sense really.

Catholic, eh?

No.  You are not a Catholick.  What you mean is that you are a Roman Catholic.  You have a different Bible, a different hierarchy but, essentially, the same silly belief system.  Sense can be so common.

Commoner incensed

In the real sense, catholic with a capital C means Roman Catholic. So stick that on a stick and smoke it.

You say potato I say potahto

Yes, Malcolm, I am a Roman Catholic. And, I still loves ya! Even if you know Jack shit about Catholicism.

Sheesh! You lawyers are so pedantic.

Patent Law - project for Malcolm - blog lawyer


If Malcolm is a lawyer then perhaps he could do something productive and useful like look at the issues relating to patent law and the constraints they impose on the development and registration of drugs with expired patents and come up with a way of overcoming the abomination of what's known as patent law (and all the unfavourable longer term implications with regard to barriers to the development and registration of new uses for existing drugs ) to  help make a valuable difference on this important issue instead of starting a debate on the differences between catholic and Catholic and Catholick (lower case "c" vs upper case "C" or with a "k" on the end) and what that all signifies.


Pascal's wager

Well, Heraclitus avoided the religious as people " who talked to walls" and a good friend of mine talks in terms of something akin to kids "talking to imaginary friends" (reminds me of Cartman from Southpark).

But another mate, who was in Vietnam reckons, "no atheists in fox holes".

For my part, I discovered a long time ago that I need all the help I can get, and if God wants to help, I am well past picking and choosing, as to one more friend.

Blaming God is just a form of avoidance / denial.


Paul, I think religious belief or observance is a matter, it does not belong to any Church as in the Institution of the Church. The Church like any other “Institution”, has its problems and there are always those at the top of any hierarchy that take more liberty than they should where the extent of their influence and power is concerned and that is fair or reasonable. It’s one thing to guide people according to a particular belief or doctrine – which I have absolutely no issues with and those who wish to live accordingly are perfectly free to do so as far as I’m concerned AND quite another to set out to control others in the community and deny them their free will and the freedom to act according to their own conscience within reasonable limits.

 When John Howard introduced legislation to prohibit access to this drug in 1996, he acted according to his desire to proceed with the partial sale of Telstra, money, his own ego and demonstrated his overt megalomanic tendencies. To achieve that end Howard was prepared to deny women their rights with respect to access to this drug in exchange for Harradine’s vote on the partial sale of Telstra.


People like John Howard who use religion to present themselves as decent, fair and reasonable people with a compassionate nature are the biggest of frauds. I judge people according to their actions and not whether they go to Church or not. Frankly I don't know how he can look at himself in the mirror every morning. He managed to maintain this facade for a long time but over time, it's cleare that people have recongised him for what he is.


Perhaps it was karma at work when lost his seat in parliament to a WOMAN.

the Mighty Max

Dead right Mary Lander.  Being taken back to that event immediately put me in of Iemma and NSW electricity.

Of course, John  Howard was  Australian politics' answer to Eric Cartman-like  Cartman as seen by the viewer. Furthermore, like  Cartman and Southpark viewers, he (Howard) was the only one not to know  how the electorate eventually came to see him..

Richard:  You're going to say "Respect My Authoritaa" Paul?

Recent edition of the International Journal of Human Rights

Regardless of religious belief systems generally and whether you regard them as "silly" or not, there are those with religious beliefs who, believe it or not, are actively campaigning on some important and contentious issues such as the right of individuals to make their own decisions on the subject of abortion and are taking a stand against the extremist groups that call themselves "pro-life":

Letter to the Editor - The international journal of human rights - June 2008

Cuddles (lots of 'em)

Yes, Angela. Let's hope Mary Lander likes cuddles, too. Then I give/get two cuddles. Any other takers?

Who knows where all of this cuddling will lead...

How is it that social policy is dominated by old blokes in red frill drag wandering around like pork chops at a Jewish wedding (whoops; PC!)?

Popes, Bishops, Academics, Judges, Mullahs, Daily Lama etc, so on.

Some interesting comments

Some interesting comments from those posting and most a bit off-topic. On this subject, one of the myths mentioned is that the Pope is somehow responsible for the administration of the Scheme through which people can purportedly import unapproved drugs into Australia for use in serious and/or potentially life-threatening medical conditions. That is actually not the case and the legal responsibility for the administration of the Special Access Scheme through which the Australian Government purports to provide access to unapproved drugs, sits directly with Jane Halton, the Agency Head of the Department of Health and Ageing. While the time-frames involved in obtaining written permission and permit to import the drug together with the time it takes to track down an overseas supplier as well as the importation itself may vary case by case depending on the resourcefulness of the doctor or patient, the fact is that the Department has not been complying with their obligations under the relevant Regulations which adds to the burden being placed on doctors and patients. This is not only an issue about cost.

During the 2005 Senate Inquiry into the Therapeutic Goods Amendment (Repeal of Ministerial responsibility for approval of RU486) Bill 2005, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Ageing advised that she “believes the Department administers the existing legislation in place with due diligence”. That, of course, applies to the administration the Special Access Scheme as well.

Despite this claim, the Secretary has in fact not meeting her due diligence obligations under the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956, given that Part 5, Clause 11(b) of the Regulations state that:

“A permission to import the drug shall be in writing and shall specify (b) the name of the supplier of the drug and his address in the country from which the drug is exported”.

Based on my own experience and copies of written permissions and permits I have obtained via the Secretary and her authorised officers, the Department has never complied with the abovementioned obligation under law. Ordinarily, when legal acknowledgement is extended to a moral duty of care obligation, then this duty becomes a legal requirement.

Of note is an extract from a Senate Estimate Hansard from June 2006 as copied below. Senator Peter Cook was of course best known for his role as Chair of the Senate Inquiry into a Certain Maritime Incident and then later in establishing the Senate Inquiry into treatment options for persons with cancer. So regardless of “who he was” or “how much money he had” it made no difference in the end. Here’s a reference to his own experience direct from Hansard noting also the extent of interest taken by the responsible Secretary:

Therapeutic Goods Administration

….Senator WEBBER—There does seem to be some confusion about the length of time, because this issue was certainly raised with me by the late Peter Cook, whose medical practitioner tried to import it, but by the time they got through the process the drug got into the country too late. Ms Halton—In terms of RU486?Senator WEBBER—Yes, mifepristone. So there seems to be some misunderstandings of the processes, perhaps…

Would it be reasonable to suggest that it would not be contrary to the Secretary's due diligence obligations to actually monitor the effectiveness of the Special Access Scheme to ensure that it meets its objectives and that the system in place ensures the provision of, and timely access to, unapproved drugs for patients classified as Category A patients or would that be too big an ask of Jane Halton?

Of note also is the following extract from a recent speech by the Human Rights Commissioner:

“…the government has no structure in place within which to self monitor the human rights impacts of laws or policies. As a result, despite there being a national human rights institution devoted to human rights protection, there are serious gaps in human rights protection in Australia. In practical terms, we must ensure that human rights are taken into account during governmental processes, including law-making, policy-setting and decision-making.”

Now would that come as a surprise to anyone?

Editor (IM): Welcome (back?) to Webdiary, Mary.

Jane Halton

Jane Halton. There's a name to conjure with...

A former WD cover girl from the Moore Wilton years.

Playing chicken with people's lives

Paul, yes, I recall her biggest claim to fame was with regard to that referenced below. After her fine performance in the Senate on Children Overboard, John Howard promoted her to Secretary of the Health Dept. At least she's not been inconsistent:

ADJOURNMENT: A Certain Maritime Incident Committee Report 23-10-2002

“....But that is not the only problem with Ms Halton's evidence. If you look at her evidence, you will see 53 occasions when she just cannot recall. There are another 10 occasions when she cannot remember. There is a strange element to her evidence. When she is explaining something that works in the favour of the position that she is trying to maintain for the government, her memory is crystal clear, but when she is being questioned on conflicting or damaging evidence you observe memory loss, lack of recall, fidgetiness and like behaviour.

If we look today at what the reward has been for what I would describe as a very convenient memory, Ms Halton has been well rewarded. She is now the secretary of one of the biggest Commonwealth departments. But what I think is worse, and what I think has been a slap in the face for these asylum seekers whom she played chicken with to some degree, is that she received the Public Service medal for policy reform on illegal immigration. I say tonight that she should hand that medal back! What this committee report states about the behaviour of the task force and the culture in PM&C indicates quite clearly that she has no right to claim that medal. She has been involved in some degree in playing chicken with people's lives and she should return that medal to the Australian public.”

nothing on the national health

Let me guess, Mary Lander.

You are wondering why an employer would employ in such a serious position, someone with profound, overwhelmingly manifest symptoms approximating to amnesia, perhaps as a result of Korsakoffs or Alzheimers syndromes, or, given the severity of presentation in Jane's case, both.

Behind every successful man...

 Paul, as they say, behind every successful man there's a..............

Fall Girl.

PS. What can you tell about her karma from the photo included via the link above? Does she inspire confidence and trust?

Editor (IM): Mary, it's a quaint Webdiary custom and expectation that first use of an addressee's name in any given comment be in bold type.


Mary, sorry, your link didn't work, only got me as far as the Fairfax index. Nothing to do with that poor girl in the ad looking nonplussed at a mobile phone?

I wonder if you were going to forward something to do with Howard ministerial fire-walls, and public servants as fall guys.

Interesting stuff coming out from that enqury into Haneef and Keeltys Keystones, btw, while we are on that sort of thing.


Paul, apologies, hopefully the link below may work. If not search on Google using the title and you should get a hit:

The fall girl

Fiona: It's working for me, Mary - thank you.


Yep, worked this time.

The theory of the alien over eager, over achieving outsider eg gender, race, lower class; brought in to a dominant (middle class, white, male) in-culture to do the dirtiest jobs and then abandoned as fall person, has become an enduring fixture of urban legend.

Handy as examples of morale sapping class treachery as a bonus for bosses.

Blue collar workers loathe them, as do their less-driven workmates, male and female. Legend has it that they'll boost themselves up ready for conflict by overdosing on speed, caffeine and testosterone supplements and prepare their confrontations to coincide with their PMS.

Since male psychopaths are short on the ground, comprising only about 5% of the population, women in the workplace have proven a godsend for employers looking for fresh lines in ferrets to send down the burrows after the rabbits.

As scapegoats, Mirabilis, Bel Neal, Verandah Sandstone, Jana Wendt, the Bishop sisters and stacks of state ministers in dirty portfolios are much loved in the end ,after becoming memories, but rightly loathed whilst about their nefarious tasks.

These folk are not wallflowers; they are conscientiously complicit with, and absorbent of, the worst aspects and pathologies of patriarchy.

Puhleese also, no labelling of the writer as misogynistic on the basis of above.

I don't like male bullies either...

Not the only thing out of reach

All of this is cruel. RU486 should be on pharmacists' shelves in Australia and be subsidised under the PBS, at least for benign brain tumours.

Of course it should and I doubt any Christian like myself would say otherwise, irrespective of one's views about abortion. Abortion is not the issue at stake here. The obstacles to the importation of this drug for the purpose of treating such tumors could be overcome if the Health minister put her mind to it.  

This is not the only drug that people with particular disorders are trying to get access to or have listed on the PBS. There are many, including marijuana for pain relief. I believe no drug should be out of reach of a sufferer of any disease or illness for any reason. In the meantime the rich can afford, but the poor go without. What is the use of billions socked away if a drug has to remain out of reach of the sick? Ask Kevin Rudd because it beats me.

There are also many tests, both pathology and screening that are not Medicare rebateable. So if you can't pay, tough. Routine breast screening, thin prep pap smears for women, many diagnostic blood tests, 24 hour BP monitoring, heart disease scans on the new generation scanners for starters. So much for early intervention and detection.  

So the story here is nothing new.  Just another case of bureaucratic and government malaise and profit hungry drug companies. And we all know how unethical the latter can be. I doubt they know the meaning of the word.  The abortion issue is just a red herring.

Madman in the attic

Re Jenny Hume's comment, it does seem that the price for development and then unit cost of some drugs is astronomical. Hasn't this been the case with some of the AIDS drugs over the years, for example?

I’m wracking my brains - wasn't there another drug that was in the news, over the last election cycle, that Tony Abbott on this particular occasion was in strife for, for not putting on the national health because of alleged cost factors (unless that was RU 486).

Can anyone help?

BTW, am aware have misogynistic tendencies, I have utterly no idea what the average woman must go through life, apart from vaguely being glad not to be one. I try to be fair but sometimes my demons get the better of me on this, as other, issues.

I dropped my guard over the weekend and a nasty story about a five y.o. raped for blue movies by her father slipped under my radar. Was stunned. Am depressed, angry and nauseated and worst of all back to not being able to blame women for not liking me or men in general.

No wonder women hate us.

Richard: We can't all be tarred with the same brush, Paul. Oh, and you're right about Abbott and RU-486.

Paying for the pain

Richard, not just RU-486. I can never remember the name of these drugs but there have been many over the years that sufferers of various ailments have had to battle the bureaucracy and government over for far too long before the drug was put on the PBS. A lot of suffering and dying in the meantime but I suppose it if is not them or theirs who are suffering, then time is not of the essence. While the media is blamed for a lot, it does at times highlight these cases and get things moving. Pollies don't like that sort of publicity.

I know when my brother was dying of cancer he had to reach a certain point in his suffering before he could be prescribed a certain expensive drug for relief. So while a drug may be available and listed on the PBS that does not necessarily mean it is then automatically prescibed. The drug if prescribed before the time was deemed right cost $100 per pill.

When I last went for a breast screen on the doctor's orders, I was asked if there was a family history and was told unless there was I would not get the Medicare rebate. I mentioned a couple of great aunts and cousins that died of it and the woman at the desk said they will do.  I asked, what about those who cannot exhume some dead relly and cannot afford to pay and she said that is unfortunate. I said that is bloody outrageous you mean and she agreed wholeheartedly with me. So I wrote a strong letter of protest to the minister on behalf of those who were forced to pay, and its usually around $230. So much for all the hype about early detection.

And no Paul Walter,  I think it was only those crazy radical feminists who took a rather deep dislike to all men. Millions of women world wide quite like and love their menfolk. And BTW it is not dislike of you personally that I feel if that is what you are hinting at.  It is about how you present your arguments to those with whom you do not agree that I do not like. You seem to try to strike below the belt, rather than at the brain to me. If you are a bad shot like me then try aiming at the roof and you may hit a bit higher on the target by default.

The people I dislike most in this world are those who do terrible things to other people and animals, and they can be found of both sex. Some of the least compassionate in animal research I have found to be women, and just take a look at who makes a lot of money from the live export trade in animals.

And yes, another 35 000 sheep died on those ships last year, on top of the 322 000 between 2000 and 2005.  But we won't go into that here as it is way off thread.

The quiet deaths and suffering

hHeck, paul I haven't seen any misogynist writing form thee, is it s closet flaw that you are now confessing? :)  Brave.

There is no difference between standing up for vulnerable chidlren and standing up for vulnerable women, it is internally consistent.

it is the extremists , such as those who think everything is ok if it is art , along with those of religions who think theirs is the one , and all else be damned.

Abbott was a stupid choice for minister but one that was foistered methinks for power games by those who would control other adults fertility choices. The man is against women using the pill for goodness sake!  How could he be Health minister?   Little wonder under such extremes people have died. That is the real unseen and untrumpeted quiet tragedy of the Howard regime's reign.



Ang, you get a big cuddle redeemable by and for yourself should you so desire collection of same, should we ever meet in person.

Political expediency

Not ignoring this Paul, just sitting here sadly nodding in agreement'.

Yes I can see parallels with the Henson business; it's the same mindset that denies prophylatics and birth control to populations suffering from AIDS, high infant mortality and hunger.

If the conscience vote is anything to go by you can imagine that the majority of parliament would be for it, but it's not going to take the next step for fear of pissing off the religious right and having the issue splashed all over the tabloid headlines.

As for funding trials, we used to have a CSIRO for that purpose.

Ignorance, fear and loathing: where have I heard that before?

The Milk of Human Kindness

You are, as ever, both perceptive and correct, Fiona.

Mary would be, of course, unaware of our little internecine spat over the Henson photos, for example.

Fiona: Well, Paul, there may be some who might regard your position on the Henson affaire as anti-feminist (not moi, of course); besides, I am in no position to know what other threads Mary Lander may have looked at. So perhaps it's best if we all observe the intent of your post's heading... :)


Mary Lander, please don’t regard this comment as any sort of put-down; that is not my intention. I think that Paul Walter was referring in somewhat ironic bent to the current Pope. Paul is, to my knowledge, pro-choice (and, indeed, pro-women) – I commend his contributions on Webdiary’s RU486 thread two years ago to your attention.

The value of a woman's life

Paul, I can only presume you're talking about yourself when you speak of age given Senator Harradine is 73 years old now and retired from politic at Age: 69 in 2004. John Howard celebrated his 68th birthday in 2007 so neither are 80 years of age as yet.

No doubt many men of the older generation are pleased that Howard and Harradine have been successful in taking women's reproductive rights and their choices back to the 50's when men were men and women's choices and their decisions were made for them, by men. Ah the good old days.

Certainly as demonstrated by their anti-RU486 stance, given they were perfectly aware that the drug can be used to treat a range of predominantly female medical conditions including progesterone dependant tumours and cancers, the value of a woman's life is still, in their minds, determined by and restricted to, a woman's abilty to breed children and nothing more.

I have no doubt that even if it means the lives of those women who would benefit from the drug's uses for serious medical condtions such as tumours and cancers as well as others, like-minded men would be more than willing to sacrifice the lives of those women to ensure that the primary value of a woman's own life is centred around and restricted to her capacity to bear children and once that time has passed, her life are of lesser or no significance. 

In addition, those women who are most likely to be using it for purposes such as progesterone dependant tumours and cancers are often beyond child-bearing age in any event so their use-by-date, in terms of their value to society and the family, has been exceeded and their own lives are no longer of any real consequence. More support for access to the this drug, including at a subsidised rate for serious medical conditions that affect predominantly women, is if no merit or value to the society or family as a whole in the minds of those politicians and members of the public aligned with the views of Howard and Harradine. Thanks for clarifying that for me, Paul.


You know, the more I think about this topic the more absurd and contradictory the positions of those perturbed about young girls "shielding their vulvas with their hands" could turn out to be, if the same sorts of people would deny the same girls treatment for a much more critical real world problem with cancer, from their recalcitrant, mindless Dark Ages positions re logic, reality and science.

And funny how ignored this thread is.

No, no, no...Ban RU486

No, no, no...

Ban RU486; "right to life" , all that stuff - you know!

Besides - an old man who is eighty, never had cancer or womens problems in his life but we won't include that for consideration (apart from carrying on like an old woman, usually over things he knows little about, like sex) says so.

Still, you see the logic there.

Must be infallible If he's lived that long; after all, survived ww2.

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