Guild hits back at Grattan Institute report

Analysis doesn’t acknowledge impact of PBS savings measures in recent years, they say

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia has disagreed with new claims that Australia is continuing to pay too much for its medicines.

The Grattan Institute’s latest policy report, Orange Book 2016: Priorities for the next Commonwealth Government says the government is still paying too much.

While acknowledging that price disclosure has reduced medicine costs, the think tank says the federal government should still pursue benchmarking of international prices to ensure it gets a better deal.

The institute’s 2013 report Australia’s bad drug deal had argued that if the government benchmarked the prices of generic drugs against prices paid overseas it could save more than $1 billion a year in payments to manufacturers.

“In addition, government should only pay for the best-value drug when cheaper drugs work just as well as more costly ones,” the institute wrote in its latest report.

However the Guild disagrees with the findings.

“Comparisons across different countries with different pharmaceutical systems are fraught with misleading outcomes,” says a Guild spokesperson.

“The Grattan Institute analysis does not fully take into account the scope and impact of PBS savings measures in Australia in recent years.

“For every medicine purported to be cheaper in another country under that country’s system, we can point to other medicines which are cheaper for consumers and taxpayers in Australia,” they say.

References to the New Zealand tendering system – such as in the institute’s 2013 report– rarely take into account the impact on medicine supply and shortages that are common in that country because of their lowest price tender arrangements, says the Guild spokesperson.

In addition to calling for tougher rules for pharmaceutical prices, the Orange Book report also says pharmacists could be better utilised in primary health care, particularly in rural and remote Australia.

“[Pharmacists] are highly trained, have deep expertise in medicines, and are located in communities throughout Australia. But their role is far more limited in Australia than in many other countries,” says the report.

“Pharmacists should be able to provide repeat prescriptions to people with simple, stable conditions.

“They should also be able to provide vaccinations and to work with GPs to help patients mange chronic conditions,” it says.

The Grattan Institute was contacted for further comment, but had not responded in time for publication.

Click to read the Orange Book 2016.

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