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Senator Thorpe says prisoner access to PBS medicines would save lives

Key points:

  • An expert advisory body has called on governments to improve access to medicines for people in custody.
  • Senator Thorpe has renewed her calls for the federal government to improve healthcare in prison, including by providing full access to the PBS
  • People in prison face a range of barriers to healthcare, including no access to Medicare, the NDIS or PBS medicines that are readily available to people in the community.

In its latest report, The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee – the body appointed by the federal government to review medicines on the PBS – has highlighted the need for governments to ensure equitable access for people in custodial settings to medicines that are available to people in the community.

Senator Lidia Thorpe has welcomed the recommendation, and reiterated her calls for the Albanese Government to improve healthcare in custodial settings by allowing prisoners access to Medicare, the PBS and NDIS.

Medical expert groups and stakeholders have long advocated that people in custody should have full access to the PBS, though this is still not the case

In custody, people often experience higher rates of chronic illness, poor mental health and other complex health needs. And numerous deaths in custody have been found to have resulted from inadequate provision of healthcare. 

See full PBAC Outcomes report here (p. 51 for relevant section).


Quotes attributable to Senator Lidia Thorpe, Gunnai Gunditjmara and Djab Wurrung woman and Independent Victorian Senator representing the Blak Sovereign Movement:

“People in custody are dying from preventative health conditions. They can’t access the same screenings, medications and therapies that they normally could in the community. These changes would save lives.”

“Healthcare is a human right and governments must stop picking and choosing whose human rights they are willing to observe. Prisoners are people with families, and no one deserves to die or suffer from preventable causes.”

“Fixing healthcare in prison would mean better outcomes for prisoners, families and the community, and reduce long-term pressure on the health system.”

"The government needs to start listening to First Peoples and health experts on this, and start treating people in custody as human beings who have a right to receive healthcare. This should be giving people equal access to healthcare.”

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