Interim report ‘a step backwards’

Peak bodies have come together to highlight potential problems with King Review suggestions

Members of the Medicines Partnership of Australia, the nation’s pharmaceutical supply chain peak body, have expressed concern about proposed options in the Review of Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation’s Interim Report

These suggestions would have significant unintended consequences for the industry and a negative impact on consumers, they say.

The Interim Report outlines several key options for change in the pharmaceutical supply chain, including increased pharmacy regulation, changes to PBS pricing rules, abolition of the optional $1 discount of the patient co-payment, the introduction of tendering for generic medicines and several options for removing, retaining or replacing the existing Community Service Obligation for wholesalers.

“In assessing the options put forward by the Panel, the MPA is concerned about the consequences of some of the proposed changes as they may ultimately increase prices and reduce choices for consumers, and threaten patient accessibility to critical medicines,” MPA Chair Donna Staunton says.

“It is almost as if they have started from a fixed end point and then attempted to find evidence to support that point of view.

“The Australian pharmaceutical industry has been identified as one of the key sectors for our nation’s future economic success.

“Last month, we took a positive step forward with the Federal Budget funding announcements, but we view this Interim Report in many ways, as a step backwards that has the potential to harm the future growth of the sector,” she says.

Medicines Australia Chief Executive Milton Catelin and NPSA Chair Mark Hooper expressed concerns last week to the AJP about the interim paper’s position on the supply chain.

Now, Mr Catelin underlined these concerns, highlighting a potential impact on choice of medicines for patients.

“These suggestions could have far reaching consequences for this industry and importantly, on patients through changes that may impact the reliability of the supply chain for medicines. This will therefore need careful scrutiny,” he says.

“Medicines Australia believes any reforms to how medicines are supplied by manufacturers to pharmacies and patients must ensure equity of access for patients wherever they reside and equity of distribution choice for manufacturing companies.”

PBS regulation changes put forward in the Interim Report also extends to generics, with the Panel suggesting the introduction of tenders for generic branded medicines, an outcome that would limit the number of options for consumers.

Mark Hooper agreed, highlighting existing problems with medicines shortages in Australia.

Under changes proposed by the Panel, pharmacies would be prohibited from offering consumers discounted prices on PBS listed items, adversely affecting around 85% of the Australian population to the tune of $94 million.

Increased regulation on community pharmacy, possible reductions in dispensing remuneration and radical changes to pharmacy location rules could “put at risk one of the most trusted, sustainable and best performing parts of Australia’s health system,” said Pharmacy Guild of Australia President George Tambassis.

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