Guild responds over price hike accusations


dollar coins in ascending rows (financial difficulty for opioid maintenance therapy patients)

The Guild has written to PainAustralia after its CEO suggested that pharmacists were responsible for increasing the price of low-dose codeine

Last week the CEO of PainAustralia, Carol Bennett, said the group was “extremely dismayed to hear of alleged increases in the price of codeine-containing products”.

She said the organisation stood by Health Minister Greg Hunt’s decision to refer the issue to the ACCC.

“At a time when codeine is less available, industry and pharmacists are reportedly putting the price up. If true, this is unacceptable from government supported health providers,” she said.

Pharmacy Guild Victorian branch president Anthony Tassone says in the Guild’s blog that “the Guild takes these public statements very seriously and I have today written to the Chairman of PainAustralia on our members’ behalf expressing our concern about the statements made by its CEO”.

“With the only alternative of offering those products which have had a substantial price increase at a financial loss the Guild fully understands that its members, in some instances, have been left with little choice to increase the price to the patient or consumer,” Mr Tassone writes.

“Any such decision would be made being very aware of the impact that increased out of pocket costs can have on patients, particularly those experiencing chronic conditions.”

He says the Guild has also invited representatives of PainAustralia to meet and discuss ways to work together to address chronic pain management in the community, including how pharmacists can help.

PSA national president Dr Shane Jackson told the AJP that pharmacists “have been painted very poorly” over the pricing issue, which is unfortunate because “these prices have been provided to the pharmacies”.

“The manufacturers have set a cost price that’s significantly increased, and that’s a worry – and consumers, quite rightly, are annoyed because prior to 1 February it was one price and then post-1 February it’s another,” he says.

“And for all intents and purposes to them it’s the same product, so it’s quite right that we should be asking what’s going on.

“Pharmacy is not the culprit here.”

Pharmacy Guild Tasmanian branch president John Dowling said that “our members have had to put up with some of the flak” over the price change.

“Again, pharmacists get stuck in the middle over things that aren’t under our control, and we’re being blamed for it all.

“I guess when you’ve got greatly decreased sales amounts the manufacturers are obviously thinking they won’t sell as much, so it’s economies of scale and they’ve put up the cost.”

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