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Wednesday, 20 May 1970

Mr Cohen asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:

(1)   When was the last increase granted to chemists for dispensing national health service prescriptions.

(2)   What was the percentage increase.

(3)   What was the basis for the calculation of the increased costs.

(4)   What has been the overage annual cost increase of dispensing prescriptions since the last rise.

(5)   Does the Government propose a further increase soon.

(6)   If not, why not.

Dr Forbes - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   March, 1961.

(2)   National Health dispensing fees were in creased by 10%. In addition to dispensing fees chemists also receive, as part of their remuneration for dispensing National Health prescriptions, a markup on the wholesale price of the drugs supplied. The rate of markup is 331% for readyprepared benefits and 50% for those benefits where the chemist mixes the ingredients.

(3)   The Pharmacy Guild has applied for a 20% increase in National Health dispensing fees but this bore little relationship to the increase in actual costs during the period concerned, being the previous year. The Government granted a 10% increase in dispensing fees in 1961 but at the same time it exercised a right under the then existing arrangement with the Guild when it advised the Guild that, because of the "freakish" result yielded by the updating formula, it wished to negotiate a new arrangement for future adjustments in National Health dispensing fees.

(4)   This is not known (see replies to 5 and 6, hereunder). (5 and 6) The Government and the Guild jointly had a survey carried out by an independent firm of consultants on the costs of dispensing National Health prescriptions, and in mid-1969 the Government decided, after examining the survey report, that National Health dispensing fees would remain unaltered. When conveying this decision to the Pharmacy Guild the Government invited the Guild to participate in a new survey so that a further review of chemists' remuneration could be carried out in the light of changing cost structures, but the Guild has not yet signified whether it will accept the offer of a new survey. I recently received a new submission, dated 5th March 1970, from the Pharmacy Guild, requesting an increase in dispensing fees, and I referred the submission to the Joint Committee on Pharmaceutical Benefits Pricing Arrangements for examination and advice, as this is the normal procedure. I received the Joint Committee's report on this submission on 20th April 1970, and I am at present considering this report. As soon as possible I will write to the Federal President of the Pharmacy Guild on the matter.

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