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Guild welcomes removal of location rules sunset clause as PBS bill passes lower house

The amended PBS bill in which a number of Sixth Community Pharmacy Agreement-linked initiatives were tied, has passed through the House of Representatives.

Passage of the National Health Amendment (Pharmaceutical Benefits – Budget and Other Measures) Bill 2017 was welcomed as “good news” by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia as one of the interlinked changes was the removal of the sunset clause on pharmacy location rules.

Guild president George Tambassis, said: “This measure is in recognition of the fact that community pharmacies need certainty and stability to continue investing in their small businesses and employing staff to serve the healthcare needs of their patients. We thank the Government, the Opposition and the Australian Greens for supporting the passage of this legislation.”

The bill was backed by the Federal Opposition with Shadow Health Spokesperson Catherine King saying: “While much of this bill focuses on enabling price changes for medicines and drugs—which, as I said, is
something we support—it also makes a notable change to the pharmacy location rules.

“Since 1990, rules have existed to limit how close a new pharmacy can be to an existing pharmacy. These rules have a sunset clause in the Sixth Community Pharmacy Agreement. This bill will remove the sunset clause, meaning existing arrangements will continue post-2020”.

“Labor will not stand in the way of this change,” Ms King said. “In the context of this legislation, I’d like to note the important role of pharmacists as custodians of the PBS and in the National Medicines Policy”.

However, Dr Mike Freedlander (ALP, Campbelltown, NSW) questioned the removal of the sunset clause ahead of the King Review recommendations being tabled.

“This change, I think, is problematic,” said Dr Freedlander, a paediatrician. “I do understand that this matter was being looked at by the government’s Review of Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation inquiry, but their findings have now been effectively gazumped.

“It may have made some sense to wait for the completion of that review before the government signed off on this aspect of the bill, but what’s done is done”.

Among the changes to the PBS included in the bill are:

The existing 5% reduction for single-brand drugs on the F1 formulary on their fifth anniversary of listing will be extended for another two years, now applying until April 2020
There is the introduction of two new anniversary price reductions for drugs on F1: a 10% reduction after 10 years of listing on the PBS and a further 5% reduction after 15 years of listing.

On 1 June 2018, medicines that have already reached the 10-year or 15-year anniversary by that date will be subject to catch-up reductions, and subsequent anniversary reduction days will occur on 1 April each year.

The bill increases the price reduction that applies on listing the first additional new brand of a medicine. When a first new competing brand is listed alongside an existing brand of an F1 drug, both immediately have their prices reduced, with the reduction increased from 15 to 25%
The bill now goes before the Senate.

 

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