National Medicines Policy too important to be rushed before Federal Election

10 February 2022: Following consultation with members – and heeding the concerns of the Consumers Health Forum (CHF) and patient groups – Medicines Australia reiterates its call to have finalisation of the new National Medicines Policy (NMP) delayed until after the Federal Election.

The NMP Review Committee yesterday heard from a range of stakeholders who resoundingly agreed that four weeks is not enough time to provide feedback on the Draft NMP, which was quietly released last week.

Medicines Australia CEO, Liz de Somer, said that the inadequate consultation period – extended from two weeks to four weeks – was not the only problem with the Draft NMP.

“The NMP affects all Australians. It is central to the health of the nation – now and into the future. It is far too important to be rushed,” Ms de Somer said.

“We have examined the Draft NMP closely and it is lacking in many vital areas.

“The aim is focused on processes rather than on desired outcomes. This misses the point. Governance, accountability and evaluation proposals are ambiguous and there is no framework for regular review with the stakeholders and partners.

“While there is intent to modernise the policy, the draft document fails to reflect stakeholders’ inputs, particularly the voice of consumers – the patients whose lives are most directly impacted by medicines policy and access to medicines.

“We cannot let the first review of the NMP in 20 years to be a missed opportunity. Too much is at stake.”

Medicines Australia has been in contact with many key stakeholders, including patient groups who represent vulnerable patients who need access to lifesaving and life-changing medicines. There is widespread concern about the inadequacies in the Draft NMP, and dismay at the short consultation time, even when extended by two weeks.

Some key stakeholders, including patient support groups, do not have the resources to weigh in on such a historic Policy within such a short period of time. Many expressed their concern that they were not notified about the release of the Draft.

Ms de Somer said the NMP received over 150 written submissions, many of which expressed the need for a clear vision and governance frameworks, including ambitious targets and clear KPIs, which are currently lacking in the Draft.

“The World Health Organization’s guidelines list ‘commitment to a goal and a guide for action’ as one of the key markers for an effective national medicines policy,” Ms de Somer said.

“Failure to include ambitious goals, clear objective measures, governance and review mechanisms is not only dismissive of what stakeholders have asked for, but also fails to meet international best practice.

“The Government must listen to the voices of patient groups, health experts, and industry to put in place the right policy framework to ensure the success of the NMP.

“More time is needed, and more genuine consultation is needed – away from the distractions of an election.

“The NMP must be put on hold for further discussion and implementation by the next Government.”

-ENDS-

For media enquiries and interview opportunities, please contact:
Chrystianna Moran – 0424 995 118 / chrystianna.moran@medicinesaustralia.com.au
John Flannery – 0419 494 761 / john.flannery@medicinesaustralia.com.au

Background:

Published in 2000, Australia’s National Medicines Policy (NMP) is a framework that aims to deliver positive health outcomes for all Australians through their access to, and appropriate use of, medicines.

The NMP guides the range of activities encompassing medication management, access, and affordability of medicines in Australia through a partnership approach between all sectors.

The Review of the NMP (the Review) was commissioned by the Minister for Health, the Hon. Greg Hunt MP, in recognition of the substantial changes to the health landscape since the policy was implemented.

The Review has been led by an Expert Advisory Committee established by the Minister for the Department of Health. The Committee is chaired by Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Michael Kidd AM.

Its members include Professor Lloyd Sansom AO; Mrs Janette Donovan; Dr Sarah Dineen-Griffin and Mr David Herd. This Committee has brought expertise across medicines policy, clinical practice, consumer engagement, and the pharmaceutical industry to the Review.

The Committee undertook a 12-week period of public consultation that commenced on 30 August 2021 and concluded on 17 November 2021. The public consultation process included a call for public submissions, and bilateral interviews and virtual group discussions with selected stakeholder organisations. The Committee also held a virtual stakeholder webinar forum in December 2021 to present the key themes from the consultation process.

The Review Committee received 156 written submissions and consulted with 194 representatives across 135 organisations through its program of meetings and virtual group discussions.

Further information about the consultation, including the Discussion Paper, can be found here: https://consultations.health.gov.au/technology-assessment-access-division/national-medicines-policy-review/.

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