MSAC and its Sub-committees

Page last updated: 21 July 2017

Purpose and Role of the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) and its Sub-committees

The Medical Services Advisory Committee

The Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) is a non-statutory committee established by the Australian Government Minister for Health in 1998. MSAC appraises new medical services proposed for public funding, and provides advice to Government on whether a new medical service should be publicly funded based on an assessment of its comparative safety, effectiveness, cost-effectiveness and total cost, using the best available evidence. Amendments and reviews of existing services funded by the MSAC or other programmes (for example, blood products or screening programmes) are also considered by MSAC.

The MSAC advises the Minister for Health on medical services in relation to:

  • the strength of evidence about the comparative safety, effectiveness, cost-effectiveness and total cost of the medical service;
  • whether public funding should be supported for the medical service and, if so, the circumstances which public funding should be supported;
  • the proposed Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) item descriptor and fee for the service where funding through the MBS is supported; and
  • other matters related to the public funding of health services referred by the Minister for Health.
MSAC also advises the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council (AHMAC) on health technology.

MSAC meets three times per year and its size is determined by the Minister for Health, with its composition drawn from a wide range of expertise in order to consider various types of applications. Membership may include, but is not limited to, cardiology, medical oncology, pathology, health economics, pharmacy, general practise, consumer representative.

MSAC members are appointed for a specific term or until membership is otherwise legally terminated. Membership periods are staggered to reduce operational impact for future membership changes. Members may serve on MSAC and/or any of its sub-committees or ad-hoc working groups. MSAC may also co-opt non-members to its sub-committees or working groups.

The Evaluation Sub-committee

The Evaluation Sub-committee (ESC) is a standing sub-committee of MSAC with membership that may include, but is not limited to, consumer representation and expertise in health economics, epidemiology, public health, clinical expertise.

The ESC’s focus is to consider the clinical evidence and economic assessment presented in an assessment report in detail, provide advice on the quality, validity and relevance of the assessment, and identify any issues that MSAC will consider, for example, where evidence may be weak.

The PICO Advisory Sub-committee

The PICO Advisory Sub-Committee (PASC), formerly known at the Protocol Advisory Sub-committee, is a standing sub-committee of MSAC with membership that may include, but is not limited to, consumer representation and expertise in epidemiology, nuclear medicine, health policy, clinical expertise.

The PASC oversees the development of a PICO Confirmation (formerly known as a Decision Analytic Protocol [DAP] and then Protocol) that uses the widely accepted PICO (population, intervention, comparator and outcome) approach that is intended to:

  • capture current clinical practice and reasonably reflect likely future practice with the proposed new service;
  • identify all potentially impacted healthcare resources; and
  • present and justify the framework for evidence collection during the assessment phase of the MSAC process.
Applicants and their clinical experts can attend the PASC meeting to present their PICO Confirmation and discuss the proposed service with PASC members. This also allows PASC members to clarify the intention of the service and for the Applicant to understand the outcome of PASC.

Terms of Reference for the MSAC and its Sub-committees

For further information on the MSAC and its Sub-committees Terms of Reference, please refer to the MSAC website (

Health Technology Assessment Groups and Clinical Experts

MSAC is further supported by Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Groups who are contracted by the Department of Health to prepare documents to support the MSAC process. These include PICO confirmations, assessment reports and critiques.

MSAC is also supported by clinical experts. Clinical experts are used by HTA Groups and applicants when preparing their assessment reports. Clinical experts also attend PASC meetings to answer any questions that committee members may have.