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The Australian: 5 April, 2016

The Australian: 5 April, 2016


By Sarah-Jane Tasker 5 April 2016

Patients 'could miss out on leading drugs'

Pharmaceutical companies have warned Australian patients risk missing out on leading new drugs after the federal government cut the price of hundreds of medicines.

The government reduced by 5 per cent the price of branded medicines that have been on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme for five years or more, and pharmaceutical companies say they will be forced to wear the discount.

Carlo Montagner, the chief executive of Specialised Therapeutics Australia, said if there were further price cuts, companies might remove drugs from the PBS because it would not be viable to keep them on the list.

“Australia is becoming less and less attractive for clinical trials and (research and development),” he said. “Australians will not be able to participate in clinical trials for new, revolutionary drugs being trialled because they won’t come here.”

Mr Montagner, who founded his company after working for big pharma in the US, said Malcolm Turnbull had launched an “innovation” discussion but there was limited support for those willing to pay for innovation.

Although there was no short term effect, from a consumer perspective, there would be medium and long-term impacts. “We could become like New Zealand ... New Zealand is constantly
ranked as the bottom of all OECD countries in terms of access to medicine,” he said.

The government hailed the PBS price cuts as a win for consumers, saying that in conjunction with other incentives, patients would now pay less for more than 400 medicines. The price for many combination medicines and patent protected drugs listed on the PBS dropped at the weekend. The changes, in addition to annual April adjustments, were key elements of the Coalition’s pharmacy and PBS reform package that passed the Senate last year.

Health Minister Sussan Ley yesterday said the government had offered the sector a five-year agreement but this was turned down in favour of gambling on the Senate rejecting the measures.

“This is a classic example of where it’s time the drug lobby stopped putting so much effort into misleading people and started working proactively with government to negotiate positive outcomes for the future of the PBS, ” she said.

Paul Cross, a former ministerial adviser to two health ministers and publisher of a pharmaceutical trade publication, said the PBS had not grown for about six years and the government was about to take another $6 billion in price cuts. “Of the $6.6bn that the government are getting from the latest reforms, not one cent is being set aside to fund new medicines,” said
Mr Cross.

Ms Ley rejected this and pointed to the $3bn she said the Turnbull government had invested in listing new medicines in the year since the PBS reform package was introduced.