Australia, pharmacy body near agreement on budget subsidies for medicines

Australia's government reportedly has reached an agreement with the nation's pharmacists, nearing an end to a long-fought battle over a budget to cover subsidized medicines.

According to news reports, the pharmacists, who dispense the drugs subsidized by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, have agreed to let the budget go through, with a cut of U.S.$4.8 billion in spending over the next 5 years.

Although the Pharmacy Guild agreed to quit fighting the budget, it apparently threatened to take its opposition to other venues, including court.

One of the sticking points for pharmacists was a proposed $1 discount system designed to save the government more than U.S.$320 million.

In return, the budget for health programs run by pharmacists would be increased to nearly U.S.$1 billion. Still the drug stores were unhappy with a contingency, that it must be cleared first by the medical Services Advisory Committee composed of health experts.

The overall part of the budget directly affecting pharmacists, Australia Financial Review reported, would be about U.S.$15 billion, about U.S.$2.4 billion short of what the pharmacists wanted.

- here are stories from the Australia Financial Review and The Australian