Collegiality called for in drug pricing debate

Leading Age Services Australia is calling on the commonwealth government and the Pharmacy Guild to address issues over medication pricing collegially with the benefit of consumers as the cornerstone of discussions.

LASA CEO Patrick Reid says government and the Pharmacy Guild need to work through the drug pricing impasse collegially  

By Natasha Egan

The commonwealth government and Pharmacy Guild of Australia need to put consumers’ interests first and work through their disagreement over medication pricing together, according to aged care peak body Leading Age Services Australia (LASA).

Reforms announced by the government on 2 August have changed the pricing review cycle for off patent drugs subsidised under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme from 18 months to one year to reduce the cost of medicines for consumers and taxpayers more quickly. 

But the Pharmacy Guild is campaigning against the change saying it breaches an agreement valid until 2015 and will likely result in the loss of free services including the preparation of dosage packs and delivery for a patients living in residential aged care.

LASA CEO Patrick Reid said older Australians and age service providers relied heavily on community pharmacy to deliver a broad medication management service along with other clinical roles.

“LASA would suggest that the guild and government must work through this impasse collegially, with benefit to the consumer as their cornerstone,” Mr Reid said.

“Obviously we would be very concerned if services currently provided by pharmacies without charge were to be reduced because of this emerging viability crisis.”

Mr Reid, who is a member of the Pharmacy Guild and a pharmacy owner, said LASA supported measures to ensure consumers and government paid an affordable and fair price for medicines but also supported the retention of a viable community pharmacy network.

They are the people who dispense the medicines, provide the expert advice and many free services to clients in home, retirement, independent living and residential care, he said.

“There needs to be a balance struck which provides value for consumers and sustainability for Australia’s 5300 pharmacies.”

Pharmacy Guild national president Kos Sclavos said the signed agreement between the federal government and community pharmacy, which still had two years to go, was meant to give businesses certainty.

Many pharmacists made decisions based on those agreements and thousands of pharmacies will be impacted, he said.

“They may be viable businesses but the changes mean they can’t meet their financial commitments. 

“Others will have no choice but to cut jobs or reduce services or implement new charges for the first time,” Mr Sclavos said.

Free services such as dosage pack preparation and delivery services for aged care are currently cross subsidised rather than paid for by government and the loss of these services is a flow on impact to the changes not considered by government, he said. 

On Monday the guild launched a petition-based campaign against changes the government’s pricing policy, known as price disclosure, and called on older Australians to rally against the changes lest they bear the brunt.

Consumer advocacy groups rejected the guild’s call saying that consumers and taxpayers paid too much for medications to the benefit of pharmacies. 

Read previous coverage here Australians over-pay for medications

Tags: kos-sclavos, lasa, patrick-reid, pharmaceutical-benefits-scheme, pharmacy-guild-of-australia, price-disclosure,

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