Pharmacists deserve support, not slander

7 Oct, 2014


The Pharmacy Guild of Australia rejects the claims of price gouging and ‘rorts’ by pharmacists, as
alleged in a News Ltd newspaper story and editorial this morning.
The allegation of exorbitant pricing of Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme medicines by pharmacists
is misleading and false, and a slur on the thousands of staff of community pharmacies who
dispense PBS medicines diligently and efficiently across Australia every day.
It is not the first time that News Ltd has carried stories purporting to compare medicine prices in
Australia with those overseas, notably in the United Kingdom.
Such comparisons are misleading and selective, and fail to take into account a significant number
of medicines which are actually cheaper in Australia than in Britain. People should be wary of drug
price comparisons across countries with vastly different systems and different patent expiry
As the Department of Health pointed out at a recent Senate Committee hearing, drugs such as
cholesterol-lowering rosuvastatin are significantly cheaper in Australia than in the United
Kingdom. There are similar outcomes for a lot of cancer treatments: docetaxel, paclitaxel,
topotecan and oxaliplatin are commonly used drugs that are all significantly cheaper here than in
other countries.
In relation to the chemotherapy drug docetaxel, according to Department of Health evidence to
the Senate Committee it is priced at $6.98 in Australia, compared to $252 in the United Kingdom.
Another example is the drug omeprazole which is 24 per cent cheaper here.
The PBS price for medicines is determined by negotiation between the Government and
manufacturers – pharmacists are price takers, not price makers.
The vast majority of PBS medicines dispensed in Australia are for concession card holders –
pensioners and people with health care cards. These patients pay no more than the co-payment –
$6 for the majority of medicines they are prescribed, making the PBS arguably the best subsidised
medicine scheme in the world.
Where a medicine is dispensed for a general patient, and that medicine’s PBS price falls below the
general co-payment of $36.90, there is fierce competition on price in the marketplace.

The price disclosure mechanism, introduced seven years ago with the co-operation of pharmacists,
is reaping huge savings for taxpayers, consumers and the Government. As the News Ltd story
admitted this morning, this has delivered billions of dollars in savings to the Government and to
taxpayers. This process has been accelerated twice, and is now having a real impact on the
profitability of pharmacies – and on the jobs and services they provide.
Pharmacists and community pharmacies deserve support for the work they do – not defamatory
and misleading slurs.
Media inquiries: Greg Turnbull 0412 910261