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Australian Journal of Pharmacy : September 2006
editorial from the editor firstname.lastname@example.org EDITORIAL AND word frequently used in the debate about reforming the PBS is ‘headroom’. The Howard Government says it wants to create ‘headroom’ in the PBS to enable the entry of new and more expensive medicines. It says—wrongly—the current PBS growth estimates by Treasury are unsustainable and that unless savings can be found, there won’t be ‘headroom’ to pay for these new medicines. Treasury estimates are significantly in excess of independent analysis commissioned by the Guild and pharma companies. Even the Health Minister says the PBS will grow by only 7.8 per cent over the next four years—less than the CPI and well below the inflation rate. Any headroom for trust? A The Guild stands together with fellow members of the Medicines Partnership of Aus- tralia saying in the Partnership’s second PharmaFacts newsletter that existing government savings policies will reap more than $2.2bn, delivering sufficient ‘headroom’ to pay for new medicines on to the PBS. But, despite the evidence, this Government continues to stare through the argument. Perhaps it simply doesn’t see these as savings to be reinvested in the PBS because they’ve been earmarked for other purposes. Which brings me to a word I’d like to see used more often in this debate: ‘trust’. The public trusts pharmacists to help them with their medicines—they know pharmacists have the interests of the public at heart. Trust has to be earned over time and is either reinforced or damaged by previous actions. It’s one of the principles health professionals like phar- macists hang their white coats on. So can pharmacists trust the Howard Government to work in the best interests of the public and ensure their access to medicines? Putting aside the fact that its current proposals will rip and tear at Australia’s network of community pharmacies—the heart of a system of medicines supply admired the world around—one can only imagine that the Government’s stated intention to create ‘head- room’ means that whatever expected (‘expected’ being operative because of the Govern- ment’s atrocious record at financial forecasting) savings are generated will be used by the Howard Government to reinvest into the PBS to pay for community access to medicine innovations. Sounds fair enough in principle; but can this statement be trusted, given the Government’s track record, and even if further sustainable savings can be found? Not if you remember that the savings generated from the 12.5 per cent generics policy was used to buy off the grey vote following the Mark Latham Medicare Gold initiative in the lead up to the last election. Not one dollar from the policy is being spent to sustain the PBS. Yet Prime Minister Howard claimed when announcing the policy that the measure would harvest almost a billion dollars to pay for a range of senior citizen health services. Okay, $2.2bn minus, say, about $1bn worth of senior citizen pledges, leaves more than a billion dollars to fund the entry of new medicines onto the PBS. Now add that to the fact that, if it gets its PBS slash-and-burn proposals up, the Gov- ernment will effectively renege on its Agreement with pharmacy to ensure the sustainabil- ity of the network. Also add the approach taken by Government and the Department of Health in negotiating that Agreement and subsequent dealings. And what about the Government’s intention to improve the efficiency of the medicines supply chain? A few years ago the Government’s competition policy watchdog, the Aus- tralian Competition and Consumer Commission, blocked a merger between Sigma and Australian Pharmaceutical Industries. Not even the community benefit provisions allowed this to occur. Now, with API in its current position and a Government continuing to tin- ker with the Community Service Obligation fundholding, we continue to wonder how this Government can tell the public, hand on heart, that its concerns for the sustainability of the PBS rest with the need to create more ‘headroom’ for new medicines. Does it really pretend to understand or care for this vital plank of medicines policy? Can we really trust this Government’s intentions—or is it simply a case of trying to create political ‘headroom? MATTHEW ETON, EDITOR 8 ? THE AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL OF PHARMACY VOL 87 SEPTEMBER 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 Layout designer: Janice Baxter 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 PHARMACY’S OWN INFORMATION RESOURCE Member: Audit Bureau of Circulations Largest paid circulation of Australian pharmacy publications