Pharmacists are arguing they will lose out on money due to Federal Government changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.By Elaine Cooney
District pharmacists want consumers to sign a petition against changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme which could save taxpayers’ money at the expense of pharmacies.
The Federal Government previously reviewed the cost of prescription medication every 18 months, but recently changed it to 12 months.
The review helps the government allocate money to the PBS.
The price of prescription medication can drop dramatically once its patents are removed.
If the market price for prescription medication has dropped as a result, then the government could be over-allocating PBS money for the medication.
Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said the shorter review timeframe would allow the government to more accurately fund the PBS, thereby reducing costs to the taxpayer.
Pharmacists argue that when drugs come off patent, it will take more than 12 months for a price to settle at a sustainable level.
They fear without government backing during that period, they will lose out.
Ms Plibersek said the government’s decision could save patients $120 a year for some medicines which included certain antibiotics and cholesterol, heart and depression medicine.
Rochester Chemmart owner Brett Phillips said 80 per cent of his customers were on concession cards and would not notice any difference in the cost of their medicine.
He said non-concession card holders might see a price drop in their medicine under the new scheme.
He said he did not think the price drop
Elmore Pharmacist Teresa Pham was outraged at the government’s decision to reduce the price disclosure timeframe.
‘‘They are not supposed to do this without consulting us,’’ she said.
Mr Phillips said drug suppliers would be less likely to drop their prices due to being locked into a low price by the government.
Ms Plibersek said the cost of medicines for pharmacists was dropping, so it made sense the price the government paid for these medicines should drop too.
‘‘That’s fair and it’s what taxpayers expect,’’ she said.
She said the reduced timeframe meant patients would pay less for some medicines and it gave the government head room to list the newest drugs on the PBS.
Mr Phillips said most of his customers would not see any difference in the price of their medication due to this change.
He estimated the cost to his business could be up to $30,000 a year.
‘‘No small business can afford to lose $30,000,’’ he said.
‘‘That could be a staff member.’’
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