National Commission of Audit report wrong on the PBS

The recommendations of the National Commission of Audit in relation to the
Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme would see the dismantling of a system that is safe,
sustainable and effective for patients.

The Medicines Partnership of Australia urges the Federal Government to reject the
flawed recommendations in the report on the PBS, which reflect a disappointingly
superficial analysis of a very complex and crucial part of the health system.

The fact is that PBS expenditure is under control, has been subjected to extensive
reforms and savings for the past five years, and actually saw a reduction in
Government expenditure last financial year.

If adopted, the recommendations of the Commission would:

  • Limit access to medicines by imposing an artificial cap and seven year cycle
    on PBS spending
  • Increase the cost of medicines for consumers through increasing the PBS copayments
  • Decimate the pharmacy sector by removing pharmacy ownership and
    location rules, jeopardising the quality and accessibility of pharmacy services

During his appearance before a Senate Committee in Canberra on Friday, the Chair
of the Commission, Mr Tony Shepherd, said in relation to PBS listings and
expenditure: “”What is covered by the PBS just grows, and the cost of it grows, and
there is no sort of rational assessment of whether it is needed or not.” This flies in
the face of PBS reality, and would seem to be an example of what Mr Shepherd
described on Friday as “a layman’s look at the thing.”

The Commission’s reference to the New Zealand pharmaceuticals system ignores
the shortcomings of that country’s tendering system which include restrictions on
patient and doctor choice of medicines, and risks of medicine shortages through
reliance on single suppliers. Unhelpfully, the report uses as an example a single
medicine comparison, which includes out-of-date prices, and fails to recognise the
lack of choice.

Access to medicines for Australian health care consumers is underpinned by the
National Medicines Policy, established in 1999. The National Medicines Policy has
four central objectives:

  • timely access to the medicines that Australians need, at a cost individuals
    and the community can afford;
  • medicines meeting appropriate standards of quality, safety and efficacy;
  • quality use of medicines;
  • and maintaining a responsible and viable medicines industry.

Unfortunately, the recommendations of the National Commission of Audit fail the
test on all four of these objectives.

The Medicines Partnership of Australia is: The Pharmacy Guild, Medicines Australia,
the Generic Medicines Industry Association, the Australian Self-Medication Industry,
the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia and the National Pharmaceutical Services

Media inquiries: Greg Turnbull 0412 910 261