National Commission of Audit report wrong on the PBS

5 May , 2014


The recommendations of the National Commission of Audit in relation to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme would see the dismantling of a system that is safe, sustainable and effective for patients.

The Medicines Partnership of Australia urges the Federal Government to reject the flawed recommendations in the report on the PBS, which reflect a disappointingly superficial analysis of a very complex and crucial part of the health system.

The fact is that PBS expenditure is under control, has been subjected to extensive reforms and savings for the past five years, and actually saw a reduction in Government expenditure last financial year.

If adopted, the recommendations of the Commission would:
•Limit access to medicines by imposing an artificial cap and seven year cycle
on PBS spending
•Increase the cost of medicines for consumers through increasing the PBS copayments
•Decimate the pharmacy sector by removing pharmacy ownership and
location rules, jeopardising the quality and accessibility of pharmacy services

During his appearance before a Senate Committee in Canberra on Friday, the Chair of the Commission, Mr Tony Shepherd, said in relation to PBS listings and expenditure: “”What is covered by the PBS just grows, and the cost of it grows, and there is no sort of rational assessment of whether it is needed or not.” This flies in the face of PBS reality, and would seem to be an example of what Mr Shepherd
described on Friday as “a layman’s look at the thing.”

The Commission’s reference to the New Zealand pharmaceuticals system ignores the shortcomings of that country’s tendering system which include restrictions on patient and doctor choice of medicines, and risks of medicine shortages through reliance on single suppliers. Unhelpfully, the report uses as an example a single medicine comparison, which includes out-of-date prices, and fails to recognise the lack of choice.

Access to medicines for Australian health care consumers is underpinned by the National Medicines Policy, established in 1999. The National Medicines Policy has four central objectives:
•timely access to the medicines that Australians need, at a cost individuals
and the community can afford;
•medicines meeting appropriate standards of quality, safety and efficacy;
•quality use of medicines;
•and maintaining a responsible and viable medicines industry.

Unfortunately, the recommendations of the National Commission of Audit fail the test on all four of these objectives.

The Medicines Partnership of Australia is: The Pharmacy Guild, Medicines Australia, the Generic Medicines Industry Association, the Australian Self-Medication Industry, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia and the National Pharmaceutical Services Association.

Media inquiries: Greg Turnbull 0412 910261

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