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Australian Journal of Pharmacy : October 2006
editorial from the editor firstname.lastname@example.org EDITORIAL AND HE time is fast approaching when Federal Cabinet will make its decisions on where to go with the PBS Reform process which is sponsored by Health Minister Tony Abbott, but appears to be driven by others, including a politically active cohort of senior health department officials. Mr Abbott told delegates at the recent Australian Self-Med- ication Industry (ASMI) conference that he would push for the PBS reform negotiation and decision-making process to be finalised in time for any legislation required to be ‘exposed’ before the end of the year. This means that the issue will be an item for dis- cussion in Cabinet well before this time—probably before the end of October. There is a feeling that Mr Abbott might get rolled in that Cabinet discussion. Word is that senior Cabinet members realise the political folly of forcing pharmacists to accept new conditions outside the Communty Pharmacy Agreement and in the lead-up to next year’s Federal Election. Guild lobbying, with increasing yet still qualified support from Medicines Partnership of Australia members, Medicines Australia and the Generic Med- icines Industry Association, is starting to get the message through to MPs: ‘Implement your plans and you’ll stuff a system admired the world over, reduce levels of community care and destroy hundreds and possibly thousands of pharmacies in the process’. Added to that, there is also lingering resentment among a number of female MPs over the stance Mr Abbott had taken on the stem-cell and RU486 debates. Abbott fails the PBS test T But it’s great to see Mr Abbott finally acknowledge that there had been ‘a sharp and significant slowdown in the growth of the PBS,’ which he admitted to the ASMI confer- ence delegates. And for the first time there was some acknowledgement that government policies had something to do with it, although Mr Abbott still hangs on to the notion that the withdrawal of Vioxx and ‘concerns about other types of drugs’ were also major reasons for PBS growth screeching to a halt over the past year. Unfortunately Mr Abbott still holds on to the Government’s rubbery figures that esti- mate PBS growth at ‘well over 7 per cent in the Budget forward estimates period’. This is in stark contrast to a Schering-Plough commissioned report by industry group M-TAG, which demonstrates cumulative compounded annual growth of 3.6 per cent in PBS expenditure from 2006 to 2010 (see ‘New report: Cost minimisation overtakes cost ben- efit as PBS benchmark, AJP August 2006, pp5–6). What’s more, the disingenuous claim that the Government needs to find PBS savings in order to create headroom for new and expensive medicines has also been blown out of the water following recent public statements by Mr Abbott that any PBS savings—cur- rent and those via proposed PBS reforms—simply go back into consolidated revenue and are not set aside for investing back in the PBS to create the headroom (see ‘Abbott som- ersaults on PBS headroom pricing’, this edition p4). This blinkered approach and a proven decision-making priority on cost minimisation, rather than the internationally admired policy of cost-benefit, marks a focus on political outcomes rather than real health outcomes. Canberra observers are already talking up an expectation for the next bud- get to be this country’s biggest exercise in pre-election pork barelling and the PBS reform agenda is simply one of the means to help fund the Government’s election war chest. Perhaps the real test of whether the Government truly wants to engage in making the supply chain for medicines more efficient will be its attitude to any attempts to ratio- nalise the pharmacy wholesaler market. For years senior wholesaler executives have been saying that the market was not big enough to support three full-line wholesalers. Yet a couple of years ago the ACCC knocked back attempts to merge Sigma and Australian Pharmaceutical Industries. Now, following the announcement of the Community Ser- vice Obligation fund-holding recipients, a fourth player has emerged as a full-line whole- saler-the DHL Exel/Alphapharm alliance. I wonder how long it will be before the ACCC’s powers will be tested again? MATTHEW ETON, EDITOR 8 ? THE AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL OF PHARMACY VOL 87 OCTOBER 2006 ADVERTISING OFFICES: Suite F2, 1-15 Barr Street, Balmain NSW 2041 TELEPHONE: (02) 9818 7800 FACSIMILE: (02) 9818 7811 EMAIL: email@example.com WEB SITE: www.appco.com.au/ Managing Editor: David Weston Consulting Editor: Jack Thomas, OAM, PhD, MSc, FRPharmS, FPS Editor: Matthew Eton Feature Writers: Megan Haggan, Kymberly Martin, Lisa Offord Advertising Account Managers: Rad Miller firstname.lastname@example.org Jeff Johnston (02) 9556 9821 (02) 9556 9819 email@example.com Vicki Davidson (02) 9556 9816 firstname.lastname@example.org Production Manager: Suzanne Watson Marketing and Promotions Coordinator: Sarwat Majeed BOARD OF DIRECTORS John R Coppock,(Chairman) FPS, FAICD, MAIPM Alan A Russell, OBE, FPS, MR Pharms S (Hon), FAIPM (HC), FAICD Leo Lewis, ASA, B Bus David Mattingly David Weston, BA, DiplM-Lib, DipEdPub SUBSCRIPTIONS Within Australia $93.50 pa GST inclusive All other addresses $145 pa Single copies: within Australia $9.35 GST inclusive Overseas $12.50 (includes postage) Inquiries (03) 9810 9900 The Australian Journal of Pharmacy is published each month by the Australian Pharmaceutical Publishing Co. Limited. ACN 004 082 053 Registered office: 40 Burwood Road, Hawthorn Vic 3122 Telephone: (03) 9810 9900 Facsimile: (03) 9819 1706 Printed and bound by National Capital Printing ISSN 0311-8002 © 2006 APPCo Ltd. All AJP material is copyright. Reproduction in whole or in part is not permitted without the written permission of the publisher. PHARMACY’S OWN INFORMATION RESOURCE Member: Audit Bureau of Circulations Largest paid circulation of Australian pharmacy publications