Review of Medicines and Medical Devices Regulation Secretariat Department of Health MDP 67 GPO Box 9848 CANBERRA ACT 2601 REVIEW OF MEDICINES AND MEDICAL DEVICES REGULATION This submission responds to the discussion paper released by the Review of Medicines and Medical Devices Regulation in relation to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) regulatory framework and processes in respect of prescription, over-the-counter, and complementary medicines and medical devices. The following paragraphs – summarise concerns regarding the TGA regime, identify the basis of the submission, provide overall comments regarding the TGA regime. As a preliminary comment we note that there is a strong disagreement within the Australian community regarding the functions and purpose of the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). An overall response to the question asked at the outset of the discussion paper – whether there is a shared understanding amongst stakeholders of the issues and options for the future in respect of the regulation of medicines and medical devices in Australia – must therefore be a resounding no. There is no “shared understanding” about the regulation of medicines and medical devices. On the basis of discussion with clinicians, service providers, researchers, litigators, officials and consumer advocates over several years we caution against an assumption that there is unanimity on the part of different industry bodies, that government agencies are in agreement or that key stakeholders endorse the TGA’s perception of its effectiveness and priorities. A detailed analysis of the discussion paper is inhibited by the absence of information about what we have characterised as peering. Based on the information provided in the discussion paper it is difficult to conceptualise how a trusted overseas regulator program might operate. Presumably such an arrangement would need to be underpinned by harmonisation of regulatory criteria and a multipartite international agreement between countries governing allocation of applications. In the absence of such an arrangement countries could conceivably end up cross-subsidising each others regulatory systems with no clear framework for accountability and a worrying scope for regulatory arbitrage. Given that Australian consumers currently lack legal recourse to negligent direct acts by the TGA further interpolation to third party country agencies will further erode already fragile consumer confidence. Any international sharing of registration must be accompanied by robust post market approval information sharing of adverse outcomes that in turn must be communicated actively and prominently to the Australian community. Analysis is also inhibited by assumptions in the paper regarding performance relative to bodies such as the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA). The disparity between approval times for applications made to the TGA and those made to the FDA and 2 other regulators is not large. That disparity is not necessarily an indicator of inappropriate regulatory burdens, or quality of outputs. It may instead be a function of the available resources. One response to perceived delays is to strengthen the TGA’s capacity – in the first instance to provide extra staff with appropriate expertise and appropriate support – rather than weaken rules that ultimately should exist to protect Australian consumers of therapeutic goods. The Review The Australian pharmaceuticals, medical devices and complementary substances regime is need of substantial reform to address concerns regarding regulatory capture, administrative inefficiencies and institutional unresponsiveness. The Review is welcomed on that basis. The members of the Review are encouraged to actively engage with underlying issues so that their report – and the Government’s response – is not determined by corporations that seek to minimise regulatory costs without offsetting benefits to both the Australian taxpayer (eg via the public health system) and consumer. Incapacity on the part of the Therapeutic Goods Administration is at odds with the performance of peers such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (which in contrast to Australia acted quickly and publicly to deal with substantive problems regarding generic medicines) and other overseas entities (eg action in France regarding Poly Implant Prosthese (PIP) that was both more timely and more transparent than in Australia). It has resulted in costs to the national health system (and reduced national productivity, which we discuss below) that far outweigh the TGA budget, alongside fundamental erosion of the quality of life of numerous Australians. That incapacity is fostered by the immunity provisions in section 61A of the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (Cth). Repeal of the section would instil an appropriate discipline in a key agency. Repeal would complement the move to establishment of the Australia New Zealand Therapeutic Products Agency (ANZTPA) and is consistent with the development of the international framework for trusted peers that appears to be implicit in the discussion paper. Incapacity is exacerbated by the unresponsiveness of the TGA to issues regarding generic medicines, where the TGA – in contrast to peers – appears to have complacently accepted assurances by overseas manufacturers who have a history of fraud and product contamination. That complacency contrasts with import bans and substantial penalties by the FDA and counterpart agencies in other jurisdictions.1 It is evident in problems relating to the promotion and dissemination of complementary medicines 2 and, more broadly, homeopathic goods that are claimed to have therapeutic value despite recurrent authoritative studies demonstrating that those claims are empirically unsustainable. 1 See for example the FDA itemisation at http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/EnforcementActivitiesbyFDA/ ucm118411.htm and Meera Kay, ‘Indian generics manufacturer Ranbaxy agrees to pay $500 m to settle US fraud and drug safety charges’ (2013) 346 BMJ: British Medical Journal f3536. 2 Given criticisms in Australian National Audit Office, Therapeutic Goods Regulation: Complementary Medicines (ANAO Audit Report No.3 2011–121) it is regrettable that the discussion paper omits the chapter on complementary products. 3 We have referred to incapacity because underperformance by the TGA is systemic, rather than a matter of isolated failures that have now been fully addressed. Underperformance reflects a culture in which therapeutic goods enterprises are the organisation’s clients. Under-performance is ongoing and will not be addressed by ‘cutting red tape’ in order to reduce the cost of applications, fundamentally speed up approvals and minimise post-approval surveillance. 3 Process improvement is not identical with the elimination of appropriate rules or discouragement of proactive identification of potential issues and responses. For example, past TGA cost savings appear to mean that the failure to conduct due diligence regarding the distributor’s insurance left the victims of PIP without a solvent defendant.4 Given substantive concerns within the health profession, the legal profession and consumers at large we accordingly invite the Review Panel to recommend that – funding — the Government reviews and enhances the TGA’s funding model, so that it is better equipped to act in the national interest. Prevention of harm will increase reduce burdens on the taxpayer at the macro level, improve the lives of individual citizens and maintain national productivity. statutory immunity — s 61A of the Act be repealed, on the basis that the section currently frees the TGA from an essential discipline. The TGA (and ANZTPA) should not be allowed, and tacitly encouraged, to get things wrong, at the expense of the very consumers it exists to protect. administration — the TGA, through for example the Australian National Audit Office, conduct a rigorous evaluation of its ‘back office’ functions, given that there appears to be scope for systemic and ongoing business process improvement in areas such as financial management and public communication.5 engagement — the TGA be strongly encouraged to actively engage with civil society advocates and not, for example, rely on assertions that ‘everything anyone needs to know’ is available on its web site. That engagement will foster trust. 6 It should include establishment of an independent and expert advisory body on the model of the Advisory Council on Intellectual Property. 7 That body must include consumer representatives. As we discuss below, it is inherently problematic that the word ‘consumer’ does not appear in the objectives section of the Act; indeed consumer protection is not identified specifically as a focus anywhere in the Act.8 It is disquieting that clinicians and stakeholders in We note that the Panel is to identify “Opportunities for reducing red tape burden in the short and long term, Strategies for ensuring red tape reduction can be sustained, Issues threatening the achievement of reductions in regulatory burden”, all of which presuppose that regulation is inappropriate and excessive. 4 We note PIP because the due diligence failure is egregious and did not necessitate special expertise or certification, for example did not require a TGA or other Commonwealth official to have postgraduate qualifications in pharmacology. 5 One metric of efficiency would be the gross number and duration of TGA staff with workplacerelated disorders, what some observers have cruelly but aptly characterised as the ‘ComCare Metric’. 6 Frederic Bouder, ‘Handling pharmaceutical risks in post-trust society’ in Trade, Health and the Environment: The European Union Put to the Test (Routledge, 2013) 91. 7 http://www.acip.gov.au 8 The Act features a mere five references to ‘consumer’, none of which relate to protection of the community. The Act is not informed by the National Medicines Policy. 3 4 Australia were reliant on what they were reading in the New York Times and on the FDA site about problems with Ranbaxy and other generics manufacturers, given the TGA’s choice to remain silent and disregard of questions by medical journalists, researchers and others. verification — the TGA be required to adopt a more timely, transparent and proactive stance in dealing with overseas therapeutic goods manufacturers, in particular with manufacturers in jurisdictions such as India where regulatory frameworks are inadequate (eg there is an ongoing history of fraud and product contamination and where regulators have been ineffective). 9 We have referred to transparency because the TGA in responding to serious problems in the Indian generics sector, for example, issued no public statement and appears to have taken no action. In contrast the FDA was seen to take meaningful action, including import bans and imposition for example of over US$500 million penalties on Ranbaxy.10 proactive investigation — the TGA not be encouraged to rely on quality statements by enterprises and by overseas peers in for example emerging economies such as India, a reliance that embodies a ‘penny wise, pound foolish’ approach that benefits some manufacturers/distributors but potentially imposes grossly inappropriate burdens on Australian individuals, families and the taxpayer. Due diligence failures and other administrative failures in recent years were readily avoidable. The consequences of an inappropriate reliance on statements by regulators (particular in jurisdictions where the regulator has recurrently failed to detect and prevent fraud regarding pharmaceuticals) will result in costs that dwarf the budget of the TGA. To adopt a classical military aphorism, the TGA should on an informed basis trust its partners but actively confirm. surveillance — the TGA strengthen its post-approval surveillance of both pharmaceuticals and devices. There is a particular need for active surveillance; experience overseas (where leading corporations such as Glaxo and Johnson & Johnson have paid multibillion dollar penalties) demonstrates that trust can be misplaced, that harms may be discernable after approval and that particular commercial stakeholders may be conflicted and thus not proactively report. devices — the TGA formally recognise and address concerns regarding the regime for regulation of devices, including emerging ‘smart’ devices, and developments such as direct to consumer genetic testing. The regulatory framework for devices is immature, there are questions about the TGA’s expertise and there is a policy vacuum in some areas because different regulators assume that their counterparts will take Deepti Ramesh, ‘FDA charges Ranbaxy with falsifying data at India plant’ (2009) 171(7) Chemical Week 25; U.S. v. Ranbaxy USA, Inc., JFM-13-CR-0238 (D. Md.); U.S. ex rel. Thakur v. Ranbaxy Laboratories Limited, Case No. JFM-07-962 (D. Md.); Lori Clapper, ‘India Drug Regulator Releases Steps To Improve Drug Manufacturing Quality’ (August 2014) PharmaceuticalOnline. 10 The New York Times last year noted the complaint by India’s top drug regulator that he lacked staff and that if “If I have to follow U.S. standards in inspecting facilities supplying to the Indian market, we will have to shut almost all of those”. The complaint followed instances where ostensibly global best practice enterprises, exporting products outside India, were found to have engaged in destruction and forgery of records, disregarded quality standards, and operated facilities that were contaminated with rodent faeces and other matter. 9 5 responsibility or that sectoral priorities override concerns regarding privacy, consumer misuse and so forth.11 objects — the Objects (s 4) of the Act be revised to more fully articulate the public policy objectives of the TGA, which go beyond administration. The operation of the TGA is a means to an end, rather than an outcome as such and the TGA is not primarily a mechanism for the support of the Australian and overseas therapeutic goods manufacturers. Its emphasis should necessarily be on consumer protection. We note references in the discussion paper to the National Medicines Policy, which does acknowledge safety and efficacy concerns regarding medicines. That policy is not express in the Act. Consumers (as recipients of therapeutic goods, as carers of recipients and as taxpayers funding those goods) should be clearly recognised in the statute and thence in the TGA’s policy statements and operational documents. Protection of those consumers has a higher importance than reducing the cost of business for therapeutic goods enterprises, most of which are based offshore and which historically have taken advantage of tax minimisation strategies. (In reminding the Panel of those facts we are not characterising the business practice as exceptional; rather we are noting that assertions by industry should be placed in context.) peering — the Government, through for example the Review Panel’s report, should clearly identify its expectations regarding peering with regulators in other jurisdictions and the framework for that peering. Such an articulation is fundamental for a meaningful critique by Australian policy analysts. It is also fundamental for critique by policymakers and analysts overseas. What tests would the TGA use in mutual recognition? What guarantees would it – and Australian consumers – have that the performance of its peers was effective and was not for example affected by institutional corruption (a systemic problem in some jurisdictions), under-reporting or what Midler characterised as the quality evaluation game.12 Based on the information provided in the discussion paper it is difficult to conceptualise how a trusted overseas regulator program might operate. Presumably such an arrangement would need to be underpinned by harmonisation of regulatory criteria and a multipartite international agreement between countries governing allocation of applications. In the absence of such an arrangement countries could conceivably end up cross subsidising each others regulatory systems with no clear framework for accountability and a worrying scope for regulatory arbitrage. Given that Australian consumers currently lack legal recourse to negligent direct acts by the TGA further interpolation to third party country agencies will further erode already fragile consumer confidence. Any international sharing of registration must be accompanied by robust post market approval information sharing of adverse outcomes that in turn must be communicated actively and prominently to the Australian community. Basis of the Submission 11 The differing stances of the TGA and FDA (and FTC) regarding Direct To Consumer (DTC) genetic testing are one illustration of the problem. 12 Paul Midler, Poorly Made in China: An Insider's Account of the China Production Game (Wiley, 2nd ed, 2010). 6 The submission is made by Assistant Professor Bruce Baer Arnold and Assistant Professor Dr Wendy Bonython, both of the Law School at the University of Canberra. Assistant Professor Arnold teaches intellectual property, privacy and competition and consumer law. He has published widely on the Australian patents and competition regimes, and is co-author of a forthcoming study of Australian health law. His work has been cited with approval by a range of law reform bodies and parliamentary committees. He is a member of the OECD health informatics working party. Assistant Professor Dr Bonython teaches health law and tort law. She has published widely on tort and health law, and is lead author of a forthcoming study of Australian health law. Her work has been cited with approval by a range of law reform bodies and parliamentary committees. The submission does not present what would be reasonably construed as a conflict of interest. The submission reflects the authors’ research into Australian and overseas frameworks for the regulation of medical devices and pharmaceuticals. That research is evident in presentations at leading academic conferences, participation in Australian Competition & Consumer Commission consultations regarding the Medicines Australia Code, submissions to the TGA and parliamentary committees, and publication in leading peer-reviewed journals. The submission also reflects an awareness of Australian statute/case law (for example relating to Pan Pharmaceuticals) and co-regulatory frameworks (for example the Medicines Australia Code under the Competition & Consumer Act 2010 (Cth)). It is informed by an engagement with international practice (for example regulatory failures that are evident in India in relation to the manufacture of generic medicines by entities such as Ranbaxy and Wockhardt). recognition of substantial penalties imposed by overseas regulators such as the US Federal Trade Commission on pharmaceutical corporations that have espoused global best practice (for example the US$3 billion paid by GSK13 in 2012 and US$2.2 billion paid by Johnson & Johnson in 2013), 14 litigation and settlements by medical device and drug manufacturers relating to defective products.15 US Department of Justice, ‘GlaxoSmithKline to Plead Guilty and Pay $3 Billion to Resolve Fraud Allegations and Failure to Report Safety Data’ (2 July 2012). See also State of Michigan Attorney General’s Office, ‘Schuette Announces $2.6 Million for Michigan in Consumer Protection Settlement with GlaxoSmithKline for Unlawful Marketing of Asthma Drug, Antidepressants’ (4 June 2014) 14 US Department of Justice, ‘Johnson & Johnson to Pay More Than $2.2 Billion to Resolve Criminal and Civil Investigations’ (4 November 2013). 15 In that respect we note litigation currently underway in Australia and elsewhere regarding joint implants. The failure of the TGA to identify concerns regarding implants and its slow response once concerns were identified overseas is disquieting and substantiates our assessment of problems within the organisation. See also Jennifer Racine, ‘Orthopedic medical devices: ethical questions, implant recalls and responsibility’ (2013) 96(6) Rhode Island Medical Journal 16. 13 7 an awareness of the very substantial burden on the Australian taxpayer and national productivity through regulatory incapacity (for example the cost of readily foreseeable harms attributable to defective joint implants). concerns within the legal and medical communities about the unresponsiveness of the TGA, an unresponsiveness that is exacerbated by that organisation’s legal status. disquiet within those communities regarding tacit resistance to meaningful process improvement and regarding wariness about regulatory capture.16 a fact-based analysis for the determination of risks and benefits in assessing competition initiatives and institutional reviews, including concerns regarding regulatory capture and the TransPacific Partnership Agreement Assessment of the Regime The contemporary Australian therapeutic goods regime reflects – 16 globalisation – evident in for example global, regional and bilateral trade agreements (such as the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), Korea-Australia Free Trade Agreement (KAFTA) and the proposed TransPacific Partnenership Agreement (PPA)), 17 in the dominance of overseas therapeutic goods suppliers (in terms of operation within Australia or licencing) in the Australian market, and the emergence of generic medicine suppliers within Australia and offshore. the imperatives of high tech medicine, involving consumer expectations that therapeutic goods will be readily available and affordable, and involving a shift over the past forty years from acute to chronic health conditions, particularly where consumers may need ongoing treatment through a variety of goods. autonomy on the part of consumers, clinicians and service providers such as pathology service providers that is shaped by national, state and territory government funding (through for example the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, public hospitals and clinics). an institutional culture in which the TGA, as the primary regulator, is dependent on fees paid by its ‘clients’ (ie manufacturers/distributors of therapeutic goods), construes its role in terms of those clients and is wary of public scrutiny after successive official reports have strongly criticised its operation. Questions about capture and responsiveness will, we believe, be fostered by the constitution of the expert panel, which – whilst representing policymakers, medical practitioners, and manufacturers – significantly does not feature representation by anyone associated with consumer protection, either from within the healthcare sector or elsewhere. 17 Deborah Gleeson and David Legge, ‘Strengthening public health engagement in trade policy: PHAA's policy on trade agreements and health’ (2012) 36(1) Australian and New Zealand journal of public health 7; Christopher Arup, ‘The Governance of Patents and Pharmaceuticals: The Regional FTA Contribution’ in Christoph Antons (ed) Intellectual Property and Free Trade Agreements in the Asia-Pacific Region (Springer, 2015) 287; Ruth Townsend and Thomas Faunce, ‘Challenges to Australia’s national health policy from trade and investment agreements’ (2012) 196(5) Medical Journal of Australia 354; Matthew Rimmer, ‘The High Price of Drug Patents: Australia, Patent Law, Pharmaceutical Drugs, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership’ (2014). 8 coexistence of statutes and public/private sector regulators at the national and state/territory levels (for example the TGA and the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission) regarding the promotion and delivery of therapeutic goods/services and goods/services (such as homeopathic products) that are claimed to have therapeutic attributes. conceptualisation of regulation as ‘red tape’ that is contrary to national economic growth and as ‘red tape’, with a consequent emphasis on cutting costs on an agency by agency basis without adequate consideration of impacts across the Australian economy.18 The effect of a doctrinaire ‘eliminate all red tape’ philosophy in the therapeutic goods field is to shift – and potentially significantly increase – costs rather than to eliminate them. The same philosophy shifts expertise to the private sector in instances where the national interest requires a vigorous, informed and independent national regulator. Industry policy statements by Governments regarding the encouragement of Australian life-sciences enterprises that are at odds with the paucity of substantive support for start-ups, with policymaking regarding intellectual property (notably patents) and with a commitment to free trade agreements that have been strongly condemned by government agencies (eg the Productivity Commission) 19 and by independent analysts as egregiously favouring overseas enterprises (eg members of PhRMA) at the expense of Australian consumers and the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme.20 In placing that analysis within a global context it is useful to recall that Australia has been, is and will remain a desirable market for sales and direct investment by entities in the advanced economies (eg the US, Japan, European Union) and emerging economies (eg India, where generics manufacturers are building scale and are recurrently acknowledged by the national government to be inadequately regulated). Enhancement of the Australian regime is thus not predicated on cutting regulatory requirements at the behest of the World Trade Organisation, the US Special Trade Representative or particular industry bodies. As a range of health analysts have noted, Australia does have scope for action in dealing with therapeutic goods enterprises and should exercise that scope.21 Participants in the Australian market both can and should pay for access to that market. In addressing claims regarding red tape it is axiomatic that the Review Panel should not take industry and TGA claims at face value. Australia’s national interest is not necessarily identical with the interests of the members of PhRMA. Billion dollar penalties and import restrictions imposed overseas on leading US and Indian enterprises – all of which recurrently claim to embody global best practice, a strict 18 It is not axiomatic that deregulation is necessarily the highest priority. Neeraj Sood, Han de Vries, Italo Gutierrez, Darius N. Lakdawalla and Dana P. Goldman, 'The Effect Of Regulation On Pharmaceutical Revenues: Experience In Nineteen Countries' (2009) 28(1) Health Affairs w125 for example notes that globally there has been a strengthening rather than relaxation of regulation. 19 Productivity Commission, Bilateral and Regional Trade Agreements (2010). 20 Deborah Gleeson, Ruth Lopert and Papaarangi Reid, ‘How the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement could undermine PHARMAC and threaten access to affordable medicines and health equity in New Zealand’ (2013) 112(30 Health Policy 227; and Michael Blakeney, ‘The Pacific Solution: Australia and Negotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA)’ (2014) 37(2) University of Western Australia Law Review 123. 21 See for example Agnes Vitry, Joel Lexchin and Peter R. Mansfield, ‘Is Australia's National Medicines Policy Failing? The Case of Cox-2 Inhibitors’ (2007) 37(4) International Journal of Health Services 735 9 adherence to law and a disinterested care for consumers – demonstrates that caution is appropriate. The discussion paper notes industry unhappiness about perceived delays, relative to practice in comparable jurisdictions, regarding approval of medicines and devices.22 One response to that unhappiness is to “cut red tape”. We suggest that are more appropriate response is to ask what is the basis of the delays and what are the appropriate costs for minimising delays. If delays are primarily attributable to under-resourcing of the TGA – ie insufficient expert staff who are underpinned by support staff and are encouraged through a positive corporate culture – that under-resourcing can be addressed through mechanisms such as training, recruitment and efforts to increase retention. Those mechanisms are different to reducing requirements. TGA performance can be further enhanced through a rigorous review of the organisation’s back office activity, consistent with anecdotal reports about substantial inefficiencies in information handling by staff who are not required to be specialists in the evaluation of pharmaceuticals and devices. Reliance by the TGA on the good faith and expertise of overseas regulators, such as that in India, is institutionally naive. That naivety is exacerbated by the unwillingness of the TGA to acknowledge and actively address concerns expressed by academics, clinicians and civil society advocates. The Review The Review comes after a succession of inquiries into the TGA, all of which have highlighted concerns regarding the organisation’s culture, structure and direction. Overall, the TGA has not embraced valid criticisms. Given the organisation’s significance its unresponsiveness is of real concern and should be addressed on a considered holistic basis. An observer could be forgiven for questioning the willingness of the previous and current Governments to engage with the organisation’s problems: stakeholders appear to be seeing a succession of inquiries, continued bureaucratic indifference and administrative band-aids rather than systemic performance improvement. Unsurprisingly, in an environment where improvement is construed as ‘cutting red tape’ and reducing cost, rather than necessarily improving quality of outputs, the organisation has continued to lose capacity, with a reluctance to engage with industry and other stakeholders. The concatenation of material on its website is not a substitute for a dialogue or for the necessary recognition that the TGA has failed significantly in recent years (for example with implants) and appears likely to fail in future (eg its apparent indifference to contamination and fraud problems in the Indian generics industry). Policymaking under the current and preceding national Governments has been driven by perceptions that regulation is necessarily a burden, is largely unnecessary and should be substantially reduced in order to enhance Australia’s international competitiveness. In providing this submission we are not advocating regulation by the TGA as an end in itself. Instead, we suggest that the TGA use its resources more effectively, with an emphasis on national benefits (ie avoiding both perceived and substantive capture by 22 We note that the delays referred to in the discussion paper involve weeks rather than years. 10 the commercial entities whose therapeutic goods are legitimately regulated by the national government). In preceding paragraphs we have referred to productivity. The impact of regulation, in particular inappropriate burdens attributable to unnecessary regulation, is of salient concern. In responding to the discussion paper we however offer a caution. Little of the official literature – in particular the successive reviews of the TGA that have recurrently identified problems with that organisation’s corporate culture, governance and expertise – has addressed concerns about the impact on national competitiveness and economic growth of failures by regulators. In the therapeutic goods sector a regulator that fails to readily foreseeable harms shifts costs from the regulated entity – for example a pharmaceutical manufacturer – to consumers and the wider community. The taxpayer for example bears the burden of paying for users of the public health system: people injured because the regulator failed to prevent the harm. The taxpayer also bears a burden because both the injured and their carers have a reduced ability to engage in the sustained fulltime work that results in economic growth at the macro level and that broadens the tax base. A commitment to ‘cutting red tape’ may please the TGA’s clients at the expense of penalising ordinary Australians and disappointing any national Treasurer who looks beyond the election cycle. Neither the discussion paper nor independent authoritative research has demonstrated a market failure, ie an inability or unwillingness, on the part of local and overseas therapeutic goods manufacturers to service the Australian market. Difficulties faced by Australian start-up enterprises reflect the thinness of the Australian innovation capital sector and the small size of the Australian market relative to that of the EU and US rather than fundamental problems with TGA red tape. We suggest three overall responses to the problems noted in the discussion paper. Those responses look ahead and seek systemic improvement rather than fixing historic failures. 1 Under section 61A of the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (Cth) the TGA is immune from civil litigation regarding all activity that was undertaken in good faith. That section appears to have been a response to the acknowledged misbehaviour by the TGA in relation to Pan Pharmaceuticals. The section should be deleted from the Act. Liability for negligence is a basic principle in Australian law. Immunisation from that liability is inappropriate. Liability provides a fundamental discipline that is necessary for an organisation where inadequate administration has a clear risk of resulting in significant injury to individuals, burdens on the taxpayer through increased health costs and reduced national productivity. Our preliminary research indicates that the cost to the taxpayer of injury that was reasonably foreseeable and could thus have been readily prevented by the TGA is over $1 billion, ie around ten times the cost of running the TGA. 2 The TGA currently has an anomalous status within the national bureaucracy. Alongside the removal of immunity we suggest that it be established as a more autonomous body, one that is depoliticised and for example has the same status as the Australian National Audit Office under the Auditor-General (ie reporting directly to Parliament rather than to the Health Minister of the day and to the head of the Health Department). Such a move should be accompanied by the 11 establishment of a independent statutory advisory body, for example similar to that advising the national statistician, as a mechanism for encouraging meaningful TGA engagement with stakeholders that are broader than members of Medicines Australia and other industry peak bodies. As noted above, a model is provided by the Advisory Council on Intellectual Property, advising the Australian Patent Office. The body must be adequately resourced (given that under-resourcing traditionally vitiates engagement), must be committed to active provision of advice, and given concerns regarding regulatory capture must bring together a range of stakeholders – including consumers. 3 23 Both the current Review discussion paper and the TGA appear to construe the organisation’s mission as one of administration that is driven by the reduction of costs, ie lower fees paid by the commercial enterprises that are regulated by the TGA. The Review (at page i) indicates that the paper has been released to “promote discussion” and “form a view about whether there is a shared understanding” about the regulation of medicines and medical devices. There is clearly considerable disagreement – albeit little acknowledged by the TGA – regarding the organisation’s performance, its raison d’etre and the broader framework that encompasses the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (Cth), the Competition & Consumer Act 2010 (Cth), other statutes and industry codes.23 We suggest that disagreement within the TGA and outside the organisation can be minimised through inclusion of a revised Objects clause in an updated Therapeutic Goods Act. The usefulness of an Objects clause was highlighted in a range of submissions regarding proposed changes to the Patents Act 1990 (Cth). The core element of such a clause – ahead of industry support – would be ensuring Australia’s health. Such an element would not conflict with obligations under the TRIPS agreement and would, of course, be useful in public consideration of restrictive provisions in proposed free trade agreements such as the TransPacific Partnership Agreement. (Such consideration is particularly important given consistent indications of conflicting policy positions on the part of the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade, Department of Health, Department of the Treasury and Productivity Commission.) As noted above, inclusion of an express primary object of consumer protection is not obviated by the existence of the National Medicines Policy. Australian courts and officials have recurrently noted that policy statements may be informative but are not justiciable. In undertaking its mission the TGA needs the discipline that is provided by a statute that clearly requires it to treat its duty to Australian consumers as a having a higher priority than the reduction of costs incurred by the therapeutic goods suppliers it appears to regard as its clients. It is clear for example that the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (along with many clinicians and researchers) takes a quite different view of the Medicines Australia Code to that of Medicines Australia.