Generics pushed, brand prices slashed

A plan to push GPs to prescribe generics has been flagged ahead of the Federal Budget

On the ABC’s 7.30 program Monday, reporter Andrew Probyn investigated possible changes to prescribing software which would see the active ingredient set as its default option.

Doctors would still be able to prescribe brands, however.

This measure, in conjunction with more drug price cuts being negotiated between the Government and Medicines Australia, could save $1.8 billion in health dollars, viewers were told.

“7.30 has been told a big ticket item in next week’s Budget will be to save hundreds of millions of dollars by pushing the use of generic drugs and biologically similar alternatives,” Mr Probyn said.

He also highlighted a “deal” to be struck between the Government and Medicines Australia ahead of the Budget.

“This deal would see the price Government pays for PBS medicines still on patent, progressively cut every five years,” he said.

“And once drugs go off patent altogether, the price will be slashed by a further 25%. All up about $1.8 billion will be saved over the next five years to be ploughed back into listing new drugs on the PBS.”

Doctors are already flagging their concerns about being pushed towards generics.

The Australian Medical Association’s Dr Tony Bartone said that “independent clinical decision-making and prescribing is something the AMA holds very dear and very true to our hearts”.

Dr Bartone said such a measure would interfere with doctors’ autonomy, “our independence when it comes to choosing what’s best for the patients”.

“It’s about understanding our patients and making a decision that’s in the patient’s best interests, as well as one that’s guided by years of clinical expertise and experience.”

Australians tend to be brand loyal when it comes to their prescription drugs, he said, with generics making up only about 60% of Australian scripts, compared to more than 80% of US and UK scripts and 77% of New Zealand scripts.

Health Minister Greg Hunt told the program that “I won’t speculate on individual measures other than to say that we’re working with the doctors, the pharmacists and the medicine sector and we have a tremendous partnership with each of those areas”.

He said he was committed to “100% doctor control over the prescriptions that they give.”

The Pharmacy Guild’s George Tambassis told 7.30 that substitution policy was good policy for the government and for patients.

“So it’s a win-win. It gives the Government a little bit more room to actually sustain the PBS and actually gives the patients more choice as well.”

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