2 December 2021
Canberra: The Senate has today passed landmark laws that will offer all Australians greater protection against ongoing medicine shortages, in a move the peak body for affordable medicines described as a “landmark moment for medicines policy.”
The Independent Chair of the Generic and Biosimilars Medicines Association (GBMA), Ms Jane Halton AO PSM, hailed the cross party support of the National Health Amendment (Enhancing the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme) Bill 2021 as a game changer for patients.
After a long and positive collaboration with the affordable medicines industry, the Government can now enact laws that will effectively manage the impacts of global supply shocks and medicine pricing policies on medicine supplies for Australian patients.
“Australians must be able to equitably access safe and affordable medicines, regardless of where they live,” Ms Halton said. “This legislation enables our members to increase their respective stock holdings of medicines to four to six months – creating a vital buffer against any threat of shortages.
The legislation is the culmination of months of strategic negotiations over a new five-year Strategic Agreement between the GBMA and the Commonwealth. MPs and Senators, from all parties and the cross bench, spoke positively about the value this agreement would deliver to patients across the country.
“Our driving motivation is the health, safety and wellbeing of all Australians, said Ms Halton. “Securing supply is the goal we have long aimed for and the one we have now have the ability to achieve.”
Right now, there are 250 medicines deemed at risk of shortages. These ‘at risk’ medicines treat treat everything from infections, depression and anxiety to high cholesterol, hypertension and reflux. If not treated properly, these conditions can become very serious, very quickly.
Through its new Strategic Agreement, the affordable medicines industry will ‘step up’ and onshore a substantial stockpile of medicines.
Victorian regional pharmacy owner, Mr Steve Kastrinakas said knowing that the medicines prescribed, will actually be the ones available, is an incredible relief for patients, pharmacists and their doctors across regional Australia.
“Regional patients have borne the brunt of rolling medicine shortages,” Mr Kastrinakas said. “They deserve better and we now we know, that no matter how remote or disadvantaged our patients are; there is no risk to them being able to access the affordable medicines they need, when they need them”
The Chief Executive Officer of the GBMA, Ms Marnie Peterson, hailed the passage of the legislation as a landmark moment in medicine policy. “Our members contribute more than two thirds of all the subsidised medicines dispensed across Australia each day.
“Australians rely on us to ensure they can affordably and equitably access the medicines they need without worrying about what is happening to international supply chains or whether companies will withdraw their medicines because it is no longer viable to supply Australia,” Ms Peterson said. “This is a great day for all Australian patients.”
The new Strategic Agreement is due to start mid-2022.
The Generic and Biosimilar Medicines Association (GBMA) is the peak representative body of generic and biosimilar medicine suppliers in Australia. Its members ensure that all Australians are offered high quality generic and biosimilar medicines, whilst providing affordable community health outcomes that benefit all Australians.