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Australian Journal of Pharmacy : February 2005
editorial from the editor firstname.lastname@example.org EDITORIAL AND RACE yourself, dear readers, for a roller coaster ride over the next few months. No, I’m not referring to the imminent commencement of negotiations for the Fourth Community Pharmacy Agreement, although the issue will have a huge bearing on how the negotiations play out. This is about a Federal Government policy that aims to reduce the cost of generics to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and, at the same time, pay for a policy-on-the-run made during the last election campaign (see news p67 and Capital Hill p76). The problem is that this policy could seriously damage the PBS, kneecap the generics medicines industry, significantly erode opportunities for future R&D invest- ment on pharmaceuticals in this country, and place further pressure on the relationship between the pharmacist and his or her customers. No,Prime Minister B Whoever formulated the policy could not have considered the flow-on effect of the 12.5 per cent cut, especially in therapeutic groups with numerous drugs and the potential for even more numerous generic equivalents. How the 12.5 per cent figure was arrived at and from exactly where the policy was formulated is unclear. There appear to be no discussion papers on the policy nor the calculations on the effect of the cuts to the whole of the PBS. To exacerbate the situation, the Labor Party at the time of the policy announcement during the election campaign said, ‘thank-you, we’ll also take those PBS savings’, leaving them impotent to oppose the policy and interrogate the calculations in Parliament when it opens for business in February. The policy will see the Generics Medicines Industry Association, Medicines Australia and the Pharmacy Guild of Australia in one corner opposite the Government in the other. Caught in the middle are the bureaucrats charged with implementing the policy and ‘nego- tiating’ with industry. They know the policy is flawed but are nonetheless caught in a ‘Yes Minister’ (or perhaps ‘Yes, Prime Minister’) role. The irony of this situation is that these bureaucrats are departmental cousins of those who have stymied the Guild over the release of $60m worth of funds from the Third Community Pharmacy Agreement and whose posi- tions on pharmacy run counter to those made by the Prime Minister in his election letter to pharmacists. To complete the frustrating situation, it may be that this policy can only be changed via government-to-government intervention. This is a further irony because the policy goes against principles enshrined in Mr Howard’s triumphant Free Trade Agreement with the US due to the arbitrary nature of the price cuts. So much for the importance placed by the Government on the PBS during FTA negotiations! For pharmacy, apart from the difficult task of explaining the dubious policy to their cus- tomers, the complete impact is unclear. Certainly, Mr Howard’s claim in his letter to phar- macists—‘The Government is committed to successive bilateral agreements with the Guild as a foundation of Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme’—appears more wooden than ever. If pharmacy was truly considered a foundation of the PBS, then a measure with such drastic consequences for the PBS would be introduced via the Community Pharmacy Agreement through a proper process of negotiation and discussion. Let’s hope that Mr Howard remains true to his word following his election victory; that the government would use its Parliamentary majority responsibly. There’s no room for Keatingistic arrogance on policy when it comes to the surivival of the PBS. It is a vital com- ponent of overall social policy and is admired the world over. There may be an opportunity for pharmacy to help the Government save face on this policy and, in doing so, improve its position at the Guild/Government negotiating table. But I suspect even Mr Bronger’s legendary negotiating skills would find this issue a tough nut to crack. MATTHEW ETON EDITOR 72 ? THE AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL OF PHARMACY VOL 86 FEBRUARY 2005 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: Kymberly Martin, Lisa Offord, Megan Peard Advertising Account Managers: Vicki Davidson (02) 9556 9816 firstname.lastname@example.org Rad Miller (02) 9556 9821 email@example.com Production Manager: Suzanne Watson Marketing and Promotions Coordinator: Natalie Edwards 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 Publisher: David Weston SUBSCRIPTIONS Within Australia $93.50 pa GST inclusive All other addresses $120 pa Single copies: within Australia $8.25 GST inclusive Overseas $10 (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 © 2005 APPCo Ltd. All AJP material is copy- right. Reproduction in whole or in part is not permitted without the written permission of the publisher. WE KNOW PHARMACY Member: Audit Bureau of Circulations Largest paid circulation of Australian pharmacy publications