November 2, 2011

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland) (13:48): I rise to present a petition which has been found to be in order by the House of Representatives Petitions Committee.

The petition read as follows—

To the Honourable The Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives

This petition of pharmacy customers draws the following to the attention of the House:

The Federal Government established a Community Service Obligation (CSO) to ensure that all Australians have timely access to the PBS medicines they require, regardless of the cost of the medicines, or where they live.

Under exclusive PBS supply arrangements established by pharmaceutical manufacturers, eligible CSO Distributors are excluded from supplying PBS medicines within 24 hours under the CSO and pharmacists have their supply options for PBS medicines reduced to a single supplier.

We therefore ask the House to take immediate action and introduce an amendment to the National Health Act 1953 that prohibits exclusive supply of PBS medicines by manufacturers and suppliers to community pharmacies.

from 17,461 citizens

Petition received.

Mr CHESTER: This petition has been signed by more than 50,000 people and highlights their concerns about access to the timely delivery of medicines. Time is against me today to go into the full details of the issue but, given the high level of community interest in the topic, I urge the minister to consider closely the concerns that have been raised by the petitioners. In a nutshell there is concern among many pharmacists throughout Australia, but particularly in our regional communities, that the direct distribution system adopted by the drug company Pfizer is disadvantaging their customers. Pharmacists who have contacted me have expressed their concern that they have experienced a deterioration in the timely and reliable supply of medicines since Pfizer began distributing its own products in February.

For the record, I have met with a Pfizer representative who has acknowledged teething problems in the distribution of its medicines but the company claims its new distribution model is an important part of securing its viability in the changing marketplace and ensuring Australians have access to its medicines. As I said, it is a complex issue but the level of concern among pharmacy customers, as evidenced by this petition, warrants further consideration by the minister and the government.

As a member of the Petitions Committee I am aware of a public inquiry later this year and I will be endeavouring to have the principal petitioner, Mr Tim Shelton, attend that inquiry and explain the process of achieving this petition and his concerns with the issue.

I commend Mr Shelton and his colleagues for their time, effort and commitment in bringing these concerns to the attention of the House through this petition and also through their direct contact with members. This is a major issue and I fear that regional consumers will be the worst affected in the future.

(Time expired)

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