2 May 2014.
The National Commission of Audit’s complete dismantling and destruction of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) via a damaging set of recommendations could have the public erroneously believing that the PBS has failed and must be growing out of control.
The Commission’s Report, released yesterday, acknowledged the success of PBS policy in reducing expenditure, with payments under the scheme expected to be $426 million less than previously forecast for 2013/14. These savings have been driven by the generic medicines sector.
Yet, the Commission did not recognise the significant and ongoing savings that are being driven by existing policies. It is madness to consider overhauling a system that is already driving significant savings and is designed to drive continual and ongoing future savings. Only last month, this Government introduced further legislation that will drive down the price of generic medicines even faster – this legislation has not yet even been implemented.
Prices cited in the report are out of date because existing policies continue to drive down the price of generic medicines. The price of atorvastatin is quoted in the report at $38, in fact, today the price of atorvastatin is $19 and this price will be revised downwards again as soon as 1 October 2014.
Statements that Government spending on the PBS is ‘out of control’ are simply not true. The PBS is sustainable. According to the Government’s own Medicare Australia PBS statistics, the PBS is in decline. Comparing the 12 months to March 2013 with the 12 months to March 2014, we see a 13% reduction in the number of PBS scripts and a 9% reduction in expenditure. “We call on the Government to reject this scorched earth approach to the PBS“, said Generic Medicines Industry Association (GMiA) Chairman, Mr Mark Crotty.
A tendering system for generic medicines reduces patient choice, causes medicine shortages and rationing, would destroy investment in this country, and would irreparably damage the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector in Australia.
A New Zealand PHARMAC system to administer the PBS will lead to reduced government accountability for facilitating life-saving medicines and goes against the Government’s agenda of less bureaucracy.
Yesterday, a Commissioner commented in the press that increasing patient co-payments for medicines will result in fewer medicines being used. We need to ask, where is the evidence that patients are over-utilising medicines? What will be the consequences and costs due to poorer health outcomes from using fewer medicines?
Members of GMiA are proud of the role we play to ensure Australians have access to affordable, high quality medicines through the best medicines scheme in the world – the PBS. Members of GMiA are mobilized to present practical policy options to Government that will strengthen the PBS. What is urgently required is a National Generic Medicines Policy that enables greater market penetration of generic medicines, which subsequently delivers savings for the Commonwealth Government.
Further price cuts to the PBS are not required, nor justified, and will only jeopardise access to essential medicines for patients. The PBS is an important area of Government expenditure, and is a world-class system that benefits every Australian. ENDS.