Concern continues over Hep C drug costs

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Efforts continue to find a resolution to Hep C payment standoff

Government officials have met with pharmacy and industry officials as moves continue to find a solution to the problem of effectively supplying newly PBS-listed Hepatitis C treatments.

Officials from the Australian Tax Office and representatives from the Department of Health and the Health Ministers office were among those attending a recent Canberra workshop held by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.

Also in attendance were consumer groups, prescribers, wholesalers and manufacturers.

Some Guild member pharmacies have raised concerns about serious cash flow issues given the cost of the medicines. There is a possibility that some pharmacies may be unable to manage sufficient credit to meet the demand.

The key focus of the meeting “was to align the payment requirements for these medicines with the timing of the normal PBS reimbursement process, so that pharmacy small businesses are not required to carry the cash flow costs involved in dispensing,” a Guild spokesperson said.

The Guild was seeking information on possible ways of expediting the payment for supplying the new drugs, with department officials estimating payment would take between nine and 16 days to process through PBS Online.

Unfortunately, there seems no prospect of any fast-tracking of these payments, the spokesperson told AJP Daily.

“There doesn’t seem to be any way to accelerate PBS online.”

In addition there are issues relating to GST payments and issues for wholesalers in the cost of transporting the expensive medicines.

The Guild welcomed the chance to apprise the Canberra officials of their concerns, and to engage in dialogue about the problems, the spokesperson said.

On 1 March, Health Minister Sussan Ley announced the medicines: Sofosbuvir with ledipasvir (Harvoni); Sofosbuvir (Sovaldi); Daclatasvir (Daklinza); and Ribavirin (Ibavyr) were now PBS listed.

Patients are to pay just $6.20 a prescription if they were a concession card holder or $38.30 a prescription as a general patient for the four medicines, “saving patients as much as $100,000 for treatment,” Ley said.

However, many in pharmacy expressed concern about the difficulties in carrying such expensive medicines.

“The Guild welcomes and supports the recent listing of hepatitis C medicines on the PBS and the recognition of the role community pharmacists can play in assisting people with hepatitis C,” a Guild media release said.

“However, the very high cost of these medicines is causing serious cash flow and GST issues for our members. The Pharmacy Guild has taken the lead in working with Government, consumer groups, prescribers, wholesalers and manufacturers to urgently discuss and resolve issues that have been raised by our members”.

“The Guild will continue to work with stakeholders on these issues with a view to ensuring that community pharmacies can fulfil their primary role as access points for these important life-changing medicines”.


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  1. Russell Smith

    How surprising – unpredicted (or is that just unannounced in public) demand has appeared to be double – so IF this is right, then how much more has to be cut from the rest of the PBS budget by its clearly incompetent minister in order to make ends meet. Something has to give – so far it seems that thousands of those employed in the pharmacy industry and millions of responsible aussies are paying for the results of the indiscretions and risky conduct of a few thousand others. Or just maybe the minister has agreed to “pay too much” for the listed drugs. The electorate waits to deliver its opinion! Time for the Guild to step up!

  2. Albert

    The solution to the cost problem is this: Sussan Ley, take note that overseas some of these drugs go for ONE PERCENT (1%) of the Australian PBS list price. And have done for several years. REDUCE the Australian PBS list price for these drugs to what they pay overseas. If you can’t stare down the drug companies, find yourself a job other than Health Minister. And next time, Ms Ley, so you don’t have to shaft Aussie pharmacists to pay for your pricing errors, CHECK the overseas prices of drugs first.

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