Medicines Australia has the Right Medicine for the Industry
Medicines Australia is working hard to represent the needs of the pharmaceutical industry within Australia. They accomplish this by taking the simple stand point that the medicines their members create save and improve lives. The pharmaceutical industry is a key industry within Australia, and Medicines Australia is working to bring the concerns and needs to the forefront of the minds of policy makers and stakeholders. The Australian medicines industry employs 14,000 people. The industry’s exports totalled $4.1 billion in 2009/10, making it Australia’s most valuable hi-technology exporter. It also attracts more than $1 billion a year to Australia in global research and development investment.
Representing the best in the industry
“We represent the innovators or originators in the Australian medicines industry. We have about 50 members ranging from large pharmaceutical companies, some of which are Australian owned, through to smaller sized companies and medium sized groups,” says Dr Brendan Shaw, CEO of Medicines Australia. “Some of our members have business in the off-patent market as well.” The members they represent provide about 86 per cent of the prescription medicines available through the Government subsidised Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. The Association in its present form has been in existence since 2000, officially changing its name from the Australian Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (APMA) in 2002. “We had been operating under that name for a long period of time, we had decided to restructure the organisation and move it from Sydney to Canberra, and at that time we chose to rename it to reflect the fact we now had a broader purpose,” says Dr Shaw.
Speaking for the industry and protecting the best interests of Australians
On behalf of their members they take an active role in communicating directly with policy makers, as well as connecting with Government departments. “We look at issues around health policy and industry policy, as well as working with regulators. We provide commentary and advocacy to the broader community,” says Dr Shaw. They also make themselves available to the media in order to ensure that the industries point of view is well understood.
“We have a Medicines Australia Board which is made up of managing directors from our member companies who are elected by our peers in the industry,” says Dr Shaw. “The Board provides strategic direction on key issues for the industry. Through various channels members can connect though networks and working groups get involved as well.” Medicines Australia also hosts information sessions, meetings, and conferences where they can interface and engage on the topics facing the industry today.
One of the important functions that Medicines Australia preforms is that they help self-regulate the industry by having their members adhere to a strict Code of Conduct. This code sets out an industry standard of ethical behaviour, in the marketing and selling of their drugs to the public and health care practitioners. Particularly significant is their focus on what promotional material they can distribute as well as how they interface with potential clients. “Our Code is a self-regulated code,” says Dr Shaw. “I think our code is regarded as a bench mark and a leader. And not just for our members but people outside the sector. We have developed the code to a point where it is universally well regarded,” he says. “I think it’s one of the toughest codes in the world, and it is certainly the toughest in Australia. It governs the interactions between companies and health professionals. It covers things such as not providing gifts, or lavish hospitality. Promotion has to be balanced and accurate.” Dr Shaw says that the code ensures that all of their members conduct themselves in a very ethical manner, one that is aligned with community expectations and government regulations.
“The industry is a very important contributor to the economy, both in terms of jobs, exports, and research and development,” says Dr Shaw. “It also has a role in the broader policy issues that Australia is dealing with. Things like: healthcare reform, the aging population, and how the Australian economy will develop post-mining boom, as well as how we will increase productivity in the Australian marketplace. All of these issues are places the medicines industry has a real contribution to make.” This is a very technical and knowledge dependant industry, and Medicines Australia is the best voice to represent its issues and interests, all the while protecting the consumer and the patient.