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What is the role of MSAC?

9 September 2010

As part or our continuing series on how a medical device makes it onto the market in Australia, below is an explanation of the Medical Services Advisory committee, who advise the Health Minister on whether or not to grant a procedure an MBS number.

According to the MSAC website:

The principal role of the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) is to advise the Minister for Health on evidence relating to the safety, effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of new medical technologies and procedures. This advice informs Commonwealth decisions about public funding for new (or in some cases, existing) medical procedures.

MSAC advises the Minister on the following about the service or procedure:

  • The strength of evidence relating to safety, effectiveness and cost-effectiveness
  • Whether public funding should be supported and if so, under what circumstances.
  • Whether funding should be provided on an interim basis to allow additional data to be assembled to support safety, efficacy and cost-effectiveness

What is an interim MBS number?

A medical service or procedure may be given interim funding if it meets the following criteria:

  • There is a clinical need;
  • It is likely to have a major effect on the morbidity and mortality of the disease/condition to be treated;
  • There is some evidence of effectiveness, at least in the short term;
  • There is adequate evidence of safety, at least in the short to medium term;
  • It is likely to be as effective but less costly than the comparator, or more effective at a cost proportional to increased effectiveness.

At the end of the interim funding period, the application is re-evaluated and one of three possible recommendations can be made:

  • Permanent funding is granted;
  • Permanent funding is denied;
  • or Interim funding is continued.

How long does a MSAC application take?

MSAC meets at least four times a year however there is no standard timeframe for processing applications.

At times, an application may be prioritised based on the following criteria:

  • Clinical need/burden of the disease or condition to be treated
  • Incidence and prevalence of the disease/condition to be treated
  • Availability of a satisfactory alternative treatment or technology
  • Likely utilisation Likelihood that the technology offers a significant advance in the management of the condition
  • Cost of the technology
  • Likely benefit to arise from a health technology assessment
  • Other factors such as access and equity
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