Good news in Australia this month with the price common pharmacy drugs coming down in price.
The trouble is that they haven’t fallen enough, according to the Grattan Institute.
On average, Australian drug prices are almost 16 times higher than the best price in the UK, New Zealand and Canada.
The price of packet of Atorvastatin, a anti-cholesterol medication which has 10 million scripts issued each year, has come down in price to $19.32 a packet from $30.69.
That’s the wholesale price. With pharmacy markups the savings to the consumer will be about $7.
However, in New Zealand the same pills are only $2.01. In Britain they cost $2.84.
Why are they so expensive here?
Stephen Duckett, Health Program Director at the Grattan Institute, says there’s no reason why Australians shouldn’t get a better deal on medicines.
Dr Duckett says:
Our prices are high because we buy drugs in the wrong way. The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) budget is uncapped. Representatives of drug companies and cabinet ministers, instead of independent experts, are involved in the pricing and listing of medicines. There are no strong incentives to make tough choices about putting drugs on the PBS or setting prices. Prices are set by negotiation, not by looking at the prices that are paid overseas. The result: prices that are far too high.
He says the government’s purchasing policy needs to be tougher on manufacturers and fairer for consumers.
And it’s not just a matter of saving money: nearly one in 10 Australians don’t take medicines a doctor prescribes because of cost.
The Grattan Institute says the government should:
- Ask the Department of Health to release annual international comparisons of Australia’s drug prices. Everyone would then be able to see whether we are getting value for money.
- When the current pricing agreement expires in July next year, there should be one-off benchmarking to get fair market prices.
- Establish an independent drug pricing body should be established to make sure prices stay low in the future.
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