Legal Insights

Former Minister Hunt’s final address at the Australian Pharmacy Professional Conference 2022 and PBS changes

By Damien Wurzel, Steven Tang

• 25 May 2022 • 3 min read
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We discuss former Minister Greg Hunt’s address at this year's APP Conference.

In brief

  • After a couple of COVID-interrupted years, the Australian Pharmacy Professional Conference 2022 (APP2022) was embraced by pharmacists and the wider pharmaceuticals industry last month.
  • In his final address to APP after announcing his retirement from politics in December 2021, then Minister Hunt reiterated, amongst other things, a commitment to supporting the pharmacy and pharmaceuticals sector, including additional funding for the PBS.
  • At APP2022, former Minister Hunt announced the PBS listing of Ofev (nintedanib) from 1 May 2022, and foreshadowed that the 2022 Budget (since delivered) would be the biggest Federal Budget ever for the listing of new medicines.
  • Since APP2022 concluded, both the 2022 Budget and federal election promises from both the Coalition and Australian Labor Party suggest even greater support for the sector, with the most prominent being the bipartisan commitment to reduce the PBS co-payment.

Reflections and forecasting

As a veteran of APP, the then Health Minister used his final address at APP to reflect on a number of developments over the last 5 years across the sixth Community Pharmacy Agreement and into the seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement, as well as foreshadowing what was coming next for the sector in the next 5 years.

Former Minister Hunt highlighted the funding compact entered in 2017, the commitment to permanency of the location rules and then the funding commitments under the seventh CPA including the reinstatement of indexation of pharmacy remuneration.

As to the coming 5 years, former Minister Hunt acknowledged the move to a greater scope of practice, including further work for pharmacists in administering vaccinations, supporting further modernisation building on the roll out of electronic prescribing and real time prescription monitoring, and lastly flagging the fundamental role he sees for community pharmacies in residential aged care facilities following on from the Royal Commission into Aged Care.

It appears to us that suppliers who are able to support their pharmacy customers’ enhanced offerings, through a combination of their product and service offerings, will be best placed to take advantage of these changes.

New listings

As part of his final address, former Minister Hunt announced the listing of an additional medicine on the PBS. Since 1 May 2022, Ofev (nintenadib), a medicine used to treat approximately 1,400 patients with progressive fibrosis of the lungs, has been available through the PBS.

Almost immediately after APP2022 concluded, former Minister Hunt was also able to announce the listing of Trifakta (elexacaftor/tezacaftor/ivacaftor and ivacaftor) for those aged 12 years or older with cystic fibrosis and having the most common genetic mutation, F508del.

Alongside funding for the listing of Ofev and Trifakta, the 2022/23 Federal Budget also included the new PBS listings for Trodelvy (sacituzumab govitecan) for the treatment of triple negative breast cancer and Zolgensma (onasemnogene abeparvovec) for the treatment of spinal muscular atrophy.

Commitment to PBS General Co-Payment reduction

In promising “some very significant announcements in the coming weeks”, former Minister Hunt may have been foreshadowing the Coalition’s election commitment to cut the PBS General Co-Payment from $42.50 to $32.50, effective from 1 January 2023.

The commitment to reduce the co-payment (which is bipartisan) has been welcomed by groups including the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, the Australian Patients Association, Chronic Pain Australia and Musculoskeletal Australia, who were campaigning for a reduction in the co-payment, and heeds one of the Guild’s loudest calls from APP2022.

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