Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Pricing Authority (PBPA) is to cease operations on April 1, the government has announced.

The Authority is an independent non-statutory body which currently makes recommendations to government on the prices to be paid for new drug products when they obtain a positive opinion for listing on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), and for vaccines used by the National Immunisation Program. 

The PBPA also reviews the prices of all drug brands supplied through the PBS at least once a year. It meets three times a year for this purpose, in April, August and December, five or six weeks after the three yearly meetings of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC), which recommends which products should be covered by the PBS.

“The PBPA’s objective is to secure a reliable supply of pharmaceutical benefits at the most reasonable cost to Australian taxpayers and consumers, consistent with maintaining a sustainable, viable and responsible pharmaceutical industry in Australia,” says the Department of Health.

However, it has now said that scrapping the Authority is a “key component” in implementing a new streamlined process aimed at reducing the time taken to list products on the PBS and improve access to medicines.

From April 1, new measures will be introduced aimed at allowing speedier agreement on prices for products to be listed on the PBS following a positive recommendation from the PBAC. 

The Minister for Health will continue to make the final decision on the drug’s price, but the new process will allow important new products to get their PBS listing at least four weeks earlier than is presently possible, says the Department. 

At the same time, product sponsors will benefit from having additional time – to the end of week five after the meeting of the PBAC – in which to finalise pricing submissions following a positive PBAC recommendation.

Following the scrapping of the PBPA, sponsors of submissions to the PBAC will be required to provide information on the product’s costs at the time they make the submission, but there will be a transition period for these arrangements to assist industry, says the Department. It adds that it will be contact with member organisations to facilitate provision of this information to companies, to ensure a smooth transition to the new, expedited listing arrangements. 

It also points out that there will be no change to the existing application processes for sponsors seeking price increases for currently-subsidised medicines.