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Australian Journal of Pharmacy : October 2006
news news Abbott somersaults on PBS headroom pricing H EALTH Minister Tony Abbott has somersaulted on a commitment made at the National Press Club on 2 August to apply PBS savings to headroom pricing for new high tech drugs listed on the Scheme. Mr Abbott told the Australian Financial Review (27 September) that although PBS expenses were to be ‘tightened’, any sav- ings eventuating would go back into con- solidated revenue and not to PBS funding. Mr Abbott said he expected Cabinet to consider changes to the PBS by the mid- dle of this month (October), although any proposals would be referred back to industry for further discussion. He said he remained committed to completing the reform process by year end. However, the Minister’s flip-flop on the headroom pricing issue—referred to in an address to industry, journalists and health professionals at the Press Club—caused alarm within industry circles. Less than six weeks after the NPC speech, the Minister said the issue of quar- antining was ‘misplaced’, given the PBS is a demand-driven program. The AJP contacted several members of Medicines Australia about the sudden about-face. ‘The Minister’s boxed himself in on this,’ one source said. ‘It means that, hav- ing recognised it’s a demand-driven Senior Liberal MPs praise pharmacy J USTICE and Customs Minister, Sen- ator Chris Ellison, has been joined by Parliamentary Secretary for Water, Mal- colm Turnbull in praising pharmacists for their efforts to help curb the use of pseu- doephedrine-containing medicines which have been illicitly diverted, often in small ‘backyard’ operations, to produce amphetamine-type substances. ‘Some experts estimate that as much as 90 per cent of pseudoephedrine used in clandestine laboratories to manufacture amphetamines is sourced from commu- nity pharmacies,’ Sentator Ellison said. ‘It is important to remember that while governments can initiate national strate- gies, such as the fight against illicit drug use, such strategies aremost effective when government works closely with rel- evant industry sectors. This is an excellent example of such cooperation,’ Mr Turn- bull said. The two Liberal MPs made their state- ments of support at a media event held at Pulse Pharmacy, Bondi Junction, which is located within Mr Turnbull’s seat of Wentworth. Managing partner of Pulse Pharmacy, David Kleindyk, said this was another example of pharmacy working with gov- ernment to support its initiatives and took the opportunity to ask the visiting MPs to protect the ownership of pharmacies by pharmacists. Sentator Ellison also praised the work of Pfizer Consumer Healthcare in devel- oping phenylephrine-based medicines which, it is understood, are unable to be diverted into amphetamines. ¦ scheme, you have to work to control that demand without causing loss of access, because demand is only going to increase. ‘It means, in effect, that the government is seriously going to have to look at ways of increasing PBS funding, given the Min- isterial somersault. Headroom pricing is critical to ensure we don’t become a back- water country like New Zealand.’ Another industry source said the PBS had undergone a major metamorphosis in that cost controls already implemented had led to harvested savings. ‘These will continue and do not justify further inter- ference on costs,’ she said. See more commentary in the Capital Hill column, p12. Code issue set to cause major headache MA OLUNTARY patient-support groups representing the chronically and terminally ill may be forced to rely on government funding as a result of a fresh finding by the pharmaceutical industry peak body, Medicines Australia (MA) that Schering Australia breached the Code by sponsoring a meeting of the MS (Multiple Sclerosis) 06 Conference. V (L to R) Pfizer’s Dr Mark Bowden, Senator Chris Ellison, NSW Guild representative Greg Hodgeson, Pulse Pharmacy managing partner David Kleindyk, and Parliamentary Secretary for Water Malcolm Turnbull. 4 ? THE AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL OF PHARMACY VOL 87 OCTOBER 2006 Patient-support group managers who have had a chance to study the finding, which was announced in late September, say that MA’s Code Committee’s deter- mination has ‘pointed a gun’ at the tradi- tional untied grants system of sponsorship of meetings and events which patient-sup- port groups have relied on to fund their operations. The finding—the second against continued on page 31? ¦