Labor slams Govt on higher cost of medicines to consumers


cash sticking out of coin purse

The Government will pay manufacturers less for pharmaceuticals and charge customers more under the Sixth Community Pharmacy Agreement, a Labor politician says.

Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Development and Infrastructure Stephen Jones launched a critique of the Abbott Government’s health record last night, first attacking the Government’s record on unemployment, then Medicare rebates and GP visits, and medicines.

“In the week after the Budget the Minister for Health made a great song and dance about an agreement that she has reached with the pharmaceutical industry, including the Pharmacy Guild of Australia,” Jones said.

“She said that the result of this agreement was going to be that the Commonwealth and people who were seeking to get their prescriptions filled in pharmacies were going to get access to cheaper medicines.

“Well, nothing could be further from the truth.”

He said that it is true that within the medicine and Pharmacy Guild agreement that the government has achieved savings, but that those savings have not been passed on to the consumer.

“At the same time the government introduces a bill to give effect to the pharmacy agreement and the medicines agreement in the House of Representatives, over in the Senate, in the other place, there is a bill, which you are still committed to, that will increase the cost of pharmaceutical benefits to all Australians—an increase of up to $6—and restrict access to the PBS safety net.

“The net effect of this is that, far from helping health consumers, you will be paying the medical and pharmaceutical companies less for the drugs, but you will be charging the consumers more for them.

“You have to ask yourself: how is that fair? You will be paying the pharmaceutical companies less for the drugs that we are purchasing through the PBS, but you will be charging the consumers more through the increased co-payments and the restriction in access to the safety net.

“These are just a few of the cuts and the inconsistencies that we saw in the government’s first budget that are reinforced in this budget.”

The spectre of the 2014 Budget initiative to raise the Safety Net and increase the consumer copayment – which has been neither passed nor abandoned – was also criticised by Shadow Health Minister Catherine King last week.

“There has been no better example of how health, for this government, is simply a source of Budget cuts, than the ongoing debacle over the changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme,” King said last week.

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