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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Why the PBAC recommendation that costs patients and taxpayers less has ‘strangely’ been shelved

Health Industry Hub | February 24, 2023 |

Pharma News: With the impending May Federal Budget and the state of healthcare high on the agenda, a delayed cost-savings opportunity remains ignored.

Australian Medical Association (AMA) President, Professor Steve Robson, has called on the federal government to finally implement the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) recommendation made 5 years ago to increase maximum dispensed quantities of selected PBS items from one month’s supply to two month’s supply.

Patients on repeat medications could halve their costs if the government were to heed the AMA’s call for an increase in the maximum dispensed quantities of selected PBS items.

At the time of its recommendation, the PBAC recommended approximately 150 medicines for listing with increased maximum dispensed quantities two months’ supply per dispensing, based on an assessment of clinical safety and ongoing cost-effectiveness

However, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia had strong financial incentives to reject the PBAC recommendation as it would have reduced dispensing fees and contributed to less foot traffic through retail pharmacies.

Professor Robson said the failure to implement the PBAC recommendation by the previous government, which had “strangely” been shelved, was costing patients and the taxpayer.

He said “We could be in a situation where patients are saving a lot of money and we call for the urgent adoption of these simple and safe recommendations. The AMA supported the decision [in 2018] as sensible policy that would improve access to medications for patients while saving health budget dollars for taxpayers – it’s a clear win-win scenario.

“This is one simple change that could be introduced tomorrow that would improve access to medicines while maintaining safety by allowing two months’ worth of medicines to be dispensed from a single script.

“By doing this for these particular medicines, patients could get two months’ supply from one co-payment. When Australians are facing increased costs of living, following the independent advice of our experts to halve medication costs is a no brainer.”

In its 2018 recommendation, the PBAC noted that the change “would allow clinicians to exercise greater choice and provide patients both financial and convenience benefits”.

The AMA has written to the Minister for Health, the Hon. Mark Butler MP, requesting that the government reconsider the PBAC recommendation.

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