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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Unveiling the path to sustainable growth: Medicines Australia and GBMA leaders join forces in prescription medicines sector update

Health Industry Hub | June 7, 2023 |

Pharma News: The state of the medicines sector was spotlighted at the ARCS Australia conference. Elizabeth de Somer, CEO of Medicines Australia, and Marnie Peterson, Chief Executive Officer of the Generic and Biosimilar Medicines Association (GBMA), delivered a joint presentation chaired by Dr Belinda Davis from Commercial Eyes that shed light on the importance of collaboration and the priorities within the industry.

Ms de Somer highlighted the significant agreements signed between Medicines Australia and the Commonwealth government since 2010. These agreements aimed to create savings within the sector and make room for new listings on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). However, the PBS growth is flat when adjusted for inflation. This raised concerns about the sustainability of relying solely on savings for new listings, especially given the remarkable innovations in the field of healthcare.

“We’ve seen extraordinary investments in new health technologies, such as HIV therapies, hepatitis C therapies, immuno-oncology drugs, and cell and gene therapies,” Ms de Somer explained. “But the PBS has not kept up with these innovations. It is clear that we need more investment in PBS medicines to ensure the Australian health system can accommodate new and emerging technologies.”

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To address this issue, Ms de Somer emphasised the importance of health technology assessment (HTA) in the decision-making process for funding new medicines. She called for the HTA review to expedite the process and reduce the waiting time for patients, as Australia lags behind other countries in terms of timely access to new novel therapies.

Ms Peterson discussed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sector and the challenges faced by the Australian supply chain. She stressed the need to develop policies and initiatives that would address these challenges and ensure health security for Australia.

“The pandemic highlighted the vulnerability of our supply chain and the challenges we face due to our geographical location, population size, and volume requirements,” Ms Peterson stated. “We need to work towards policies that can mitigate these challenges and maintain continuity of supply for Australian patients.”

Ms Peterson highlighted several initiatives undertaken by the GBMA, such as the affordable floor price protection and minimum stock holding requirements. These initiatives aimed to address the cost and supply of medicines and support the availability of affordable medications for patients.

Additionally, Ms Peterson underscored the importance of biosimilars in the prescription medicines sector, noting their critical role in patient treatment care and their potential for cost savings. She stressed the need for increased biosimilar uptake and collaboration with the government to create policies that would support this growth.

Australia’s position as a preferred launchpad for new pharmaceuticals is at stake, as international companies may opt to prioritise other regions with fit-for-purpose regulatory processes. The low value assessment of drugs in Australia, as observed both in internal data and public documents from the United States, further underscores the urgency to rectify the situation.

The patient community has been vocal about their frustration regarding the extensive waiting periods for new medicines and the burden of self-funding treatments. Furthermore, the need for a website to assist clinicians in identifying drugs available through compassionate access programs is due to ongoing delays in reimbursement decisions.

“The Health Minister is keen to address these issues and bring about improvements in the system,” said Ms de Somer based on her recent conversation with Minister Mark Butler.

The session concluded with a call for a collective effort to make Australia an attractive “first launch country” for new therapies and an increased engagement of patients in regulatory decision-making processes.

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