Prices of prescription medication highlighted in campaign

THREE health consumer and community organisations will launch a campaign today to highlight the "inflated" price Australian pay for prescription medicines.

Choice, the Consumers Health Forum of Australia and the Australian Council of Social Services are calling on voters to email their local candidates about the issue in the lead-up to the federal election.

Australians pay among the highest prices in the world for prescription medicines, the group claims, with figures showing 15% of people struggle to pay for their prescriptions.

The group estimates $1 billion a year could be cut from the cost of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme if Australia paid the same prices as New Zealand for medicines.

Stand Up For Cheaper Medicines is a direct response to the Pharmacy Guild of Australia's "Under Threat" campaign launched in the wake of recently announced changes to PBS price disclosure arrangements.

Under price disclosure reforms introduced by the Howard government six years ago, and expanded under Labor, the health department collects data every 18 months on the prices pharmacists pay suppliers for medicines listed on the PBS.

In its economic statement delivered on August 2, the government revealed it was shortening the price disclosure cycle to 12 months from October next year, saving $830 million over three years.

The PGA claims the move was made without consultation and would leave the average pharmacy $90,000 worse off in 2014/15.

It has circulated a nationwide petition among its member pharmacies calling for $150 million in compensation to offset the change.

Carol Bennett, CEO of the CHFA, called on consumers not to sign what she described as a "misleading" petition.

Ms Bennett said pharmacies already received $3 billion a year from the Federal Government to dispense PBS medicines, arguing the PGA was effectively demanding to be compensated for a measure aimed at ensuring prices paid by the Commonwealth dropped in line with the reductions wholesale prices.

She said the government should be applauded for closing a loophole that allowed the pharmacy industry to claim an inflated subsidy.

"For the clear benefit of patients, pharmacists and the taxpayer, the pharmacy industry needs to move away from relying on inflated subsidies for prescription drugs and towards health service delivery," Ms Bennett said.

"It's all about saving money for consumers and taxpayers. It's all about reducing inflated government subsidies for the pharmacy industry."

The Stand Up For Cheaper Medicines website will go live from today at https://ourhealth.good.do/stand-up-for-cheaper-medicines/.

Details of the PGA campaign can be found at http://www.guild.org.au/news-events/community-pharmacy-under-threat.



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