Editor's Note: i2P E-Magazine is noted for its diversity of opinion. There is no "party line" and each writer is free to express and defend their personal beliefs for their vision of the pharmacy profession in Australia.
So the debate about policy and price changes to the PBS ranges the full spectrum, from left to right.
This segment of i2P is dedicated to testing opinion from other persons who help to formulate or change policies in the health sector, but who do not currently write for i2P.
For this edition we have chosen to speak to Nicola Ballenden from the Australian Consumers Association.
GENERIC PRICING SIGNALS CHANGE
The agreement between the generic drug manufacturers and the Commonwealth signals the importance of PBS cost containment to the Government.
No longer will the Government sit back and see pharmacists benefitting from below cost prices through bonuses, discounts and incentives without seeking to pass some of this on to consumers.
The 12.5% cut in ther generic price will affect pharmacists “bottom line” but again, the government is funding a health program, not a small business support scheme.
As Nicola Ballenden, Health Policy Officer with the Australian Consumers Association told i2P, it was time retail pharmacies stopped expecting the PBS to prop up their businesses.
“Cost increases such as rent, wages and other overheads are part of the cost of being in the retail trade”, she said. “Pharmacists have to decide whether they are in the business of being a health professional or a retailer. The PBS is part of the health and welfare policies of government and must stop being looked on by the Pharmacy Guild and its members as being a free ticket to a pharmacy owners economic security.” Ms Ballenden added.
The Pharmacy Guild has been bleating about cost increases putting pharmacy businesses at risk.
The question that must be asked around Australia is where would the PBS miss a pharmacy if it was forced to close down?
Do we really need 5,000 outlets or are there areas where a surplus of pharmacies exist for the dispensing of PBS medicines.
Readers of i2P will be able follow with interest, the number that could close without making any difference to consumers ability to access PBS medicines.