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'Great PBS Detour' delaying access to new medicines

09 October, 2013

Australians are seeing their access to new medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme delayed while billions of dollars were being taken out of the scheme, Medicines Australia said in a recent statement.

In a speech to the Eye for Pharma Sales and Marketing Conference in Sydney, Dr Brendan Shaw, Medicines Australia chief executive called it the 'Great PBS Detour'.

"The whole point of PBS reform and price disclosure, agreed by all sides of politics since the middle of the last decade, was to use those savings to fund new medicines for the Australian community," he said.

"But today it appears that while the savings from price disclosure are pouring into the Treasury coffers, they are not being reinvested in new therapies for the Australian community."

Over the last six months the May Budget, the Pre-Election Fiscal Outlook and the Final Budget Outcome 2012-13 have all revised downwards the future estimated spending for the PBS.

The Budget Outcome statement shows that the federal government spent $857 million less on medicines in 2012-13 than was expected just a few months ago in the May 2013 Budget and that spending fell by 3.5 per cent, the biggest and only fall this century.

The forward estimates now show that it is expected that government spending on medicines will be $6 billion lower than previously expected over the next four years.

"The really astounding thing is that this is happening at the same time industry frustration with the PBS listing process is at an all-time high," Dr Shaw said.

"The key issue for the PBS now is to make sure that the savings from price disclosure are being re-invested in new medicines for the community, as intended, and not used to fill the Treasury coffers.

"There's no question the funds are there to do it.

"The issue is not whether the PBS is sustainable financially, but whether it is effectively doing its job as a major health program that meets the needs of the Australian community."

A copy of the full speech can be read here

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