Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (14 May) . . Page.. 1536 ..
MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Health, Minister for Community Affairs and Minister for Women) (11:35): Mr Speaker, the government opposes the amendment. Prescribing substances is an interesting and difficult issue. Over the last couple of days, there has been some discussion between my office and Ms Tucker's office. I think we were in something of a flurry as a result of time pressures. I acknowledge that we have not always been 100 per cent clear in our intentions or response to an amendment of this sort. On the basis of definite and definitive advice from the Chief Health Officer, whose advice I respect and whose advice I take in relation to this matter, the government does not support the amendment.
The effect of Ms Tucker's amendment is to keep an age limit of 19 in section 58. My advice from the Chief Health Officer of the ACT is that to do that is inconsistent with the growing body of clinical evidence which shows the effectiveness of the drugs past nine years of age.
The bill I introduced removes the arbitrary age limit of 19 from section 58. The reason for this is that over the years amphetamines and schedule 8 drugs have been prescribed as a treatment for attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, ADHD. There has been considerable evidence-based research on the effectiveness of these drugs. A growing body of evidence shows that these drugs continue to be effective for the treatment of ADHD past childhood into adulthood for many sufferers.
For this reason, the government has accepted the clinical advice that the arbitrary age limit of 19 should be removed from the legislation. The advice I have received and accepted from the Chief Health Officer is that the 19-year age limit is arbitrary. To that extent, it discriminates against some people when they turn 19. The prescribing authorities, requirements or limitations apply arbitrarily. Clinical evidence suggests that continuing treatment of some ADHD sufferers with these prescribed substances is effective.
On the basis of the advice of the Chief Health Officer, there is absolutely no sensible, sound or logical basis for applying an arbitrary age limit of 19. That is the clinical advice based on the evidence of practitioners. It is the advice honestly given by the Chief Health Officer. Why would I not accept it?
All schedule 8 drugs of dependence should be treated in the same way. It is with a desire for uniformity in the treatment of all schedule 8 drugs that we have removed the age limit of 18. There is no age limit for the approval process for any other schedule 8 drug. It seems completely illogical to the government to have an approval process in relation to the prescription of schedule 8 drugs which says we will not permit continued prescription of this one drug after the age of 19. It is not logical; it is not sensible. It flies in the face of clinical evidence that these drugs have a continuing utility for some people when they turn 19. Why would you seek to impose on those people a different regime?
We oppose the amendment. We think it is unnecessary. It flies in the face of the clinical evidence. It flies in the face of the determined advice of the Chief Health Officer of the ACT. As far I am concerned, there is no clinical reason for supporting the amendment. There seems to me to be no reason in logic to support the amendment, and the government will not support it.