Grattan report misses point on PBS reforms

Patients would be worse off if Australia adopted a New Zealand-style access to medicines policy, Medicines Australia chief executive Dr Brendan Shaw said today.

Responding to a report on pharmaceutical prices published today by the Grattan Institute, Dr Shaw said proposals to cap spending on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme would limit patient’s access to medicines.

“If you want a how-to guide for turning your health system into that a third-word country, this report would be it,” Dr Shaw said.

“Capping the PBS would kill consumer access to new therapies as the experience in New Zealand proves.

“It undermines the fundamental principal of universal and affordable access to medicines that underpins the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and has done for 60 years.

“Anyone who wants to emulate the New Zealand model of medicines policy should remember that New Zealanders have access to less than half the number of new medicines that Australians have and that New Zealand is stone motherless last in the OECD access to medicines rankings.

“So much so that when New Zealanders can’t access a variety of new medicines in their country they come over here.

“That is a direct result of the policies and processes adopted by New Zealand to assess and reimburse medicines there. That’s what happens when you run healthcare on the cheap and focus on cost containment at the expense of health outcomes.

“Australian patients deserve better than this.

“As recently as last week, the Australian Minister for Health said different countries’ pricing policies can’t be assessed in isolation from their impact on health outcomes.

“New Zealand is a basket case when it comes to access to medicines. It’s the last place health policymakers in this country should be looking to for ideas.

“There’s nothing new in this report. Many of the ideas raised in it have been looked at by governments on both sides of politics over the years and been rejected for good reason.

“Some of the proposals included in the report have led directly to medicines shortages in Australian hospitals and other countries.

“Australia’s system of price disclosure was introduced by the Howard government and bolstered by the current Government. The fact is price disclosure works and is delivering multi-billion dollar savings to taxpayers. It has already led to substantial price reductions in a range of medicines of 80 per cent or more.

“It’s a system that works well and ensures patients have good access to the medicines they need.”


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