Questions voiced over fixed drug prices

Professor Philip Clarke, chair in health economics at Melbourne University’s Centre for Health Policy, Programs and Economics, said despite cutting prices for 1000 different medications earlier this month, the government was still paying many times the market price that New Zealand paid.

Australia was paying about $50 per script for popular anti-cholesterol drugs atorvastatins while New Zealand was paying $5, which he said could alone represent a saving of almost $600 million in 18 months.

“Very quickly we can get up to $1 billion a year across the board, depending how hard you want to push the price down,” Professor Clarke told Medical Observer. 

He conceded the government was committed to a four-year memorandum of understanding with Medicines Australia (MA), which locked in price cuts, but questioned the value of the arrangement to taxpayers.

MA CEO Dr Brendan Shaw said Australia had just experienced “the

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