Home' Australian Pharmacist : Australian Pharmacist January 2013 Contents Australian Pharmacist January 2013 I ©Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Ltd. 21
A happy New Year to all our readers and
your families wherever you may be --
still down at the beach with luck!
Let's hope that in 2013 some of our
politicians, who are supposed to be
an example to us all, begin behaving
themselves as we would expect them to.
Vox pops taken early in December after
the final Parliamentary sitting week of
2012 were universally damning of the
pollies. In my youth I recall being told
when turning up for cricket training that,
while an aggressive attitude would be
welcome on the pitch, it was important
to play the ball, not the man. MPs and
Senators would be wise to heed this
advice, old-fashioned though it may
be, and debate political issues, not the
characters of their opponents.
In the last sitting week, with Opposition
Leader Tony Abbott deciding to take a
back seat so his deputy Julie Bishop could
lead the attack, the Opposition came
Xenophon shapes up
By Mark Thornton
perilously close to shooting itself in both
feet. The issue of course concerned the
so-called 'slush fund', the PM's former
boyfriend and the Australian Workers
Union. Ms Bishop repeated the allegation
made by Mr Abbott in the House that
20 years ago the PM had misled the WA
Corporate Affairs Commission over the
issue, which 'would certainly be in breach
of the law'. Only she made it outside
the House -- without privilege. Oh dear.
She was fortunate no one decided
to take the issue up, like Slater and
Meanwhile in the Senate the Parliamentary
year ended with an issue of more
particular interest to pharmacists, all of
whom will be aware of the controversy
surrounding the government's 1 December
price cut of 77% for the cancer drug
docetaxel. The price cut is part of the
price disclosure policy agreed to by the
Government and Medicines Australia,
a policy designed to ensure Australians
reap the benefits of discounting
arrangements between pharmacists and
wholesalers of generic medicines.
Some parties claim that cutting the
price of docetaxel will increase the cost
to patients by as much as $100, but the
government's argument is that before its
price disclosure policy, some pharmacists
had charged up to 50% more than market
price for some drugs.
Docetaxel just happened to be the drug
that prompted the latest debate about
how price disclosure works, but it brought
to the fore an issue that needs resolution.
The issue was taken up by Senator
Nick Xenophon who, with the
support of a broad spectrum of other
non-government Senators, put forward
a motion that, while acknowledging
the benefits of price disclosure, said
the government has not allowed for its
He told Canberra Commentary the recent
price changes have not allowed for the
cost of dispensing the drug, which may
well force pharmacies to either absorb the
loss or stop dispensing it altogether.
'I wanted to get the message to the
government that neither pharmacists
nor patients should be disadvantaged
-- there must be an alternative,
'The Government's short-sighted decision
potentially threatens to cut access to
cancer treatment to many thousands of
Australians. Pharmacists support price
disclosure on PBS items, but it should
not come at the expense of delivering
He said his motion was carried and, while
not binding on the government, it sends a
'Unless something is done, I intend to
introduce a Private Senator's Bill to try
and resolve the issue.'
The following day Health Minister Tanya
Plibersek accused pharmacists of using
the generic margin on docetaxel to cross
subsidise other areas of their businesses
and this was not fair.
She added that the government is in
'very productive discussions with the
pharmacists, with the private hospitals,
private health insurers and others',
whatever that means.
In the meantime, keep an eye on
Senator Xenophon, he assured
Canberra Commentary he's not going
to let this issue go.
Mark Thornton is a Canberra-based
journalist and was a member of
the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery
for many years.
Any opinions expressed are
not necessarily those of PSA,
its Board or staff.
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