Whilst the budget includes some modest spending initiatives relevant to the pharmaceuticals and life sciences industries, it proposes no major reforms – either positive or negative - so far as these industries are concerned.
The Innovation programs appear to have been left intact, and the R&D tax concession also appears not to have been disturbed.
There are a number of significant initiatives in respect of mental health, aged care and hospital infrastructure, all of which might have an indirect flow on to the sector. In respect of the sort of secondary areas, the following are highlighted:
- The government is providing an undisclosed sum to assist the Department of Health and Ageing recover from pharmaceutical companies compensation related to losses incurred by the government as a result of delays in the listing of generic forms of medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). This provides funding to give life to the certification provisions inserted in the Therapeutic Goods Act, which can result in significant payments by originator companies, arising from attempts to defend the patented status of their products.
- The government will provide $1.4 million over four years to strengthen the therapeutic industry's codes of conduct for the promotion of therapeutic goods. This is designed to increase the effectiveness of self‑regulated codes of conduct through: development of a standardised framework of high level principles; improving access to information, education and training; and enhancing complaints reporting and handling processes. This might be expected to lead to greater harmonisation amongst relevant codes, and also raise the bar in quite a number of respects.
- Funding of an undisclosed amount is being provided to progress the establishment of the Australia New Zealand Therapeutic Products Agency. This includes establishing a transition agency to facilitate bilateral cooperation and joint planning and implementation.
- Further funding is dedicated to delivering the e–Health agenda, including $161.6 million to operate the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) system.
- $49.3 million is to be provided over two years to replenish elements of the National Medical Stockpile to ensure medications and medical equipment are available for use in response to a health emergency or disaster.
- Further funding is being provided to expand the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.
- The government will provide $3.9 million over four years to implement initiatives responding to recommendations from the Review of Food Labelling Law and Policy. These initiatives support the Government's commitment to refocus the health system towards prevention, including by developing a comprehensive national nutrition policy. This also includes funding for awareness and education activities, consumer and economic research activities, and the development and implementation of an interpretative front‑of‑pack labelling system. These initiatives might provide greater clarity around the regulatory dividing lines between foods and therapeutic goods, a topic that might well vex those seeking to implement the Australia New Zealand Therapeutic Products Agency.