‘Mixed bag’ Budget

coin purse pharmacists paid more

More reactions to the Budget from stakeholders including Medicines Australia, the Medicines Partnership of Australia, and Cancer Council

Treatments, placebos and nocebos: Research Australia has described last night’s budget as a mixed bag.

“The Federal Government is making all of the right noises when it comes to innovation, health and research, and it is pleasing that they remain on the agenda,” says CEO Nadia Levin. “The budget would be described by my members as a combination of ‘treatments, placebos and nocebos’, and the challenge for government is to back it up with funding.”

The Government is now anticipating meeting its $20 billion target for the Medical Research Future Fund in 2020/21, compared to the 2019/20 timeframe outlined in the 2014 budget. Further, funding in the 2015/16 financial year has been reduced to $0 from $10 million, though it has been increased to a projected $61 million in 2016/17, compared to $53 million last budget.

“The sector will be encouraged by continued commitment to the fund, but disappointed about changes to short term funding and the medium term implementation timetable,” says Levin.

“Every year it is delayed is another year that promising research projects, with potential for new discoveries that saves lives and improve quality of lives, are unfunded and unrealised.”

It says the Biomedical Translation Fund is an exciting concept it looks forward to discussing with government.

“In particular, a key focus of Research Australia is the translation of work in laboratories into results for Australians, and we hope that the fund will provide a vehicle for furthering this.”



Antimicrobial resistance: The SHPA has welcomed the Turnbull Government’s $9.4 million investment in battling antimicrobial resistance.

“The Budget provision to curb the over-prescribing of antibiotics, supported by further research and surveillance initiatives, is a significant step toward protecting all Australians against the escalating threat of antimicrobial resistance,” says SHPA CEO Kristin Michaels.

“It is very pleasing to see this robust response to the report released in June last year, Responding to the Threat of Antimicrobial Resistance: Australia’s First National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy 2015-2019.”

“Antibiotic resistance is one of Australia’s major health issues with a significant impact on overall health system costs,” Michaels says.

“It can lead to increased length of stay in hospital and increased morbidity and mortality.”


Maintaining funding: The innovative medicines industry has acknowledged the Australian Government’s commitment to maintaining funding levels within the Federal Budget for the PBS.

“We believe tonight’s budget provides predictability in PBS arrangements, improvements to registration processes for new medicines coupled with company tax cuts for business are welcome policies which help to create a more conducive environment to attract investment,” Chairman of Medicines Australia Wes Cook, says.

“Medicines Australia also welcomes the $20.4 million investment over four years in response to the Medicines and Medical Devices review (MMDR) that will facilitate life-saving medicines coming to the Australian market faster, through removing or streamlining unnecessary or inefficient processes,” he says.

The fact that there are no new PBS cuts in the 2016-2017 budget is welcome, says MA. It noted the new PBS listings announced in the Budget that will provide further important health benefits for patients.


No surprises: The 2016-2017 Federal Budget confirms that the PBS is stable and will continue to ensure Australian patients have access to safe, effective medicines following years of significant reforms in the sector, says the Medicines Partnership of Australia.

The partnership includes Medicines Australia, the Australian Self Medication Industry, the National Pharmaceutical Services Association, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia and the Generic and Biosimilar Medicines Association.

This year’s Budget contains no surprises for the sector, says the Partnership, with government investment in the PBS over the forward estimates largely in line with previous forecasts.

“A predictable business and investment environment for the medicines industry and supply chain allows us to get on with the critical business of researching, manufacturing, supplying and dispensing safe, effective medicines to Australian patients, representing strong value for money for taxpayers.

“The implementation of the latest reforms through the PBS Access and Sustainability Package in 2015 have resulted in significant changes to the costs of medicines for government. These changes have ensured that the PBS will remain fiscally affordable and sustainable into the future.

“While the 2016-17 Budget has not included extra cuts to the PBS, further predictability and certainty remains critical beyond 2016 not only for the sector but for all Australians who rely upon the PBS for affordable access to treatments.”


Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: The Government is taking positive steps to address the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder rates in Australia, says said National Alliance for Action on Alcohol (NAAA) co-chair and Chair of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons Trauma Committee Dr John Crozier.

“FASD devastates families and communities. It can have major impacts on children’s intellectual ability and behaviours, putting pressure on health care services,” said Dr Crozier.

“This initiative is aimed at three key aspects of FASD: clinician education, prevention and research. This support is key to prevent FASD by empowering women with the right information to make educated decisions about the risks of drinking alcohol while pregnant,” says Dr Crozier.

“The clinical network and information resources that will be made available to clinicians are an important step in improving patient outcomes and helping clinicians better understand how FASD affects their patients,” he says.


Tax cuts cost vulnerable: UnitingCare Australia says the 2016 Budget “paints a selective picture of living within our means, with cuts to health, aged care and disability payments outweighing new spending in these areas by at least $1 billion over four years”.

UnitingCare Australia Associate National Director Martin J Cowling says the aggregate result of this budget has been to reduce taxes for the most well off while cutting funding for vulnerable groups.

“New spending on public hospitals is offset by $3.2 billion in cuts to funding for aged care providers, family support, and Medicare benefits,” he says.

“We welcome the funding for the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. However, it is concerning that the funding is sourced from savings in other areas of social welfare, including cuts to the Disability Support Pension and Carers Allowance.

“The ‘more efficient targeting’ of social welfare expenditure is simply code for further welfare cuts for the most vulnerable – with more than two billion dollars removed from the welfare system over five years.”

The St Vincent de Paul Society had similar concerns.

The last two Budgets locked in massive cuts to schools and hospitals, $13 billion in cuts to payments and $1 billion in cuts to services for people who bear the brunt of inequality, he says.

“This budget has not only retained these cuts, but has slashed an additional $3 billion in cuts to support payments and essential services.”


Improving cancer outcomes: The 2016-17 federal budget should improve overall cancer outcomes in Australia while laying a platform for further investment over the longer term, says Cancer Council Australia.

“The increase in tobacco tax alone will translate to tens of thousands of cancer deaths avoided, with trend data showing that the recurrent increases will lead to around 320,000 smokers quitting and 40,000 teenagers deterred from taking smoking up,” says CEO Professor Sancha Aranda.

She welcomed the Government’s continued commitment to defending tobacco plain packaging legislation.

She says that for every measure funded, there is a longer-term opportunity to build.

“For example, the screening register has great potential to monitor screening participation, but we will need to do more to increase participation itself – particularly in bowel cancer screening, where the benefits are extraordinary but awareness is low.

“Funding for cancer medicines is also welcome, however governments in Australia and elsewhere will need to do more to assist people with rarer cancers who face exorbitant treatment costs.


Indigenous Australians forgotten: SNAICC, the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care, says Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues are “conspicuous by their absence” in the 2016-7 Budget.

It called on the Federal Government to:

  • reinstate the $534.4 million over five years funding cuts made to the Indigenous affairs budget in recent years;
  • invest in genuine engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including in the development and application of policy and programs through adequate funding of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples and other national peaks, including SNAICC and the NATSILS; and
  • commit further resources to grow the capacity and service delivery role for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations in the early childhood, and child and family support sectors.

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