The AMA today welcomed reports that the Government plans to reform the unwieldy Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), saying any new savings must be ploughed back into making more new medicines available to more Australians.
AMA Therapeutics Committee Chairman Associate Professor John Gullotta said reports that Health Minister Tony Abbott is considering how to make the generic drug option work effectively are a welcome start to much-needed PBS reforms.
"There's potential to generate real savings for the PBS by tightening up the rules in this area," Assoc Prof Gullotta said.
"Of course, any such savings must be put back into the PBS to enable greater access to new medicines for all Australians."
Any medicines must be prescribed and dispensed with due care, Assoc Prof Gullotta said, whether they are generic or brand name pharmaceuticals.
"Doctors tick the 'not for substitution' box on prescriptions when it is essential that a patient receives a specific medicine.
"This is done for maximum effectiveness and safety reasons, to avoid confusion and potential double-dosing, especially in the elderly.
"The drug could be a brand-name pharmaceutical or it could be a generic, but if that box is ticked then the patient should not be offered an alternative drug unless the pharmacist first consults the doctor.
"PBS reform should promote best-practice prescribing and dispensing, and ensure that Australians have access to the most appropriate, cost-effective medicine for their condition."
The AMA is urging the Government to preserve doctors' right to make independent prescribing decisions for optimal patient care, and to give patients access to a full range of pharmaceuticals.
"We want to see the abolition of hurdles and blockages that prevent quality prescribing," Assoc Prof Gullotta said.
"Australian doctors collectively waste thousands of hours on the phone each year seeking Government approval to prescribe certain medicines.
"When you consider that 99.98 per cent of these requests are granted, this system constitutes a phenomenal waste of time."