The Australian government has an unusual plan for reducing prescription drug costs: enlist the help of pharma sales reps to
explain the country's pharmaceutical benefits scheme (PBS) prescribing requirements to doctors.
The PBS has subsidized drug prices for more than 50 years, but medication costs have escalated recently, partly as a result
of inappropriate prescribing. The Australian Pharmaceutical Manufac-turers Association (APMA) proposed the idea because it
believes its representatives are well placed to explain the restric-tions the PBS places on their company's products. The
government also announced several other measures aimed at reducing PBS expenditures by a total of A$1.9 billion during the
next four years.
One measure increases the amount patients must pay for each prescription by A$1 for concessional cardholders to A$6.20 for
general patients. That measure alone may save A$1.1 billion over the four-year period. Yet, APMA slammed the initiative, claiming
it will put essential medicines out of many patients' reach. Its research shows, in fact, that much of the savings will come
from patients' inability to afford their prescriptions. (See "Total Savings to Government.")
Total Savings to Government
APMA is also unhappy about the government's agreement with generics manufacturers, which will make doctors' automatic prescribing
systems default to the generic version unless the doctor overrides it. In return, generics manufacturers will reduce prices.