BALLARAT consumers are being urged not to sign a petition being circulated in some pharmacies urging government to back down on price disclosures.
Consumer Health Forum of Australia, Choice and the Australian Council of Social Service are saying any back down will ensure Australians continue to pay some of the highest prices for prescription medicines.
The federal government is speeding up the price disclosure cycle from 18 months to 12 months.
Federal Minister for Health Tanya Plibersek said the move would ensure prices of off-patent medicines dropped sooner and more often for patients and taxpayers.
The government is expected to save around $830 million on medicines over three years, from 2014-15.
“If the cost of medicines for pharmacists is dropping, then it makes sense that the price the government pays for these medicines should drop
too,” Ms Plibersek said.
“It means patients pay less... and gives the government headroom to list the newest drugs on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.”
But Greg Weller, who owns Haintz Pharmacy in Sturt Street, said the move would reduce profit margin by 30 per cent each year, impacting upon the many community services of the business.
“We do a lot of projects for very little margin, for example pharmacotherapy – which is supplying of methadone to people who are addicted to narcotics,” Mr Weller said.
“It costs a lot of time to administer the medicine, and we charge the client $5 per dose.”
Mr Weller said apart from reducing hours of two staff members, the pharmacy would also have to reconsider services such as free home delivery to the elderly and people with a disability.
CHF chief executive Carol Bennett said pharmacies already received $3 billion a year from government to dispense PBS medicines.
“Price disclosure is all about ending the practice under which pharmacy owners can clearly extract from the government and consumers prices well in excess of what they paid the manufacturer,” Ms Bennett said. “We’ve got to reduce the cost of medicines not artificially inflate them to satisfy the obvious profit motives of pharmacy
Ballarat resident Matthew Burdon said he felt the price of prescription medicine was too high in Australia.
“We have got two children and buying medicines (when needed) is a priority,” he said.
Pharmacy Guild could not be reached for comment before The Courier went to press.