Health Minister confirms NPS MedicineWise cuts

Jolyon Attwooll

29/08/2022 4:47:09 PM

Despite appeals to overturn a decision under the previous Government to remove funding from NPS MedicineWise, the original decision will stand.

Person reaching for medicine.
The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care will assume the responsibilities currently delivered by NPS Medicinewise.

The Federal Government is to press ahead with switching stewardship of the quality use of medicines (QUM) to the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (ACSQHC).
The changes were first revealed without any announcement in the final Federal Budget before the May election.
It means that NPS MedicineWise, which has existed since 1998, faces an uncertain future, with the withdrawal of its uncontested funding confirmed from the beginning of 2023.
These changes were confirmed to newsGP on Monday (29 August), following a commitment by the newly installed Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler to review the decision.
‘The independent review supported proceeding with the reforms,’ a response issued by the Minister’s office to newsGP states.
It said the program redesign will recognise ‘the extensive medicines quality and safety programs, standards and information already provided by the [ACSQHC]’ as well as ‘consolidate stewardship for quality use of medicines and diagnostic tests’.
‘The redesigned program will include additional funding of $3.9 million to support more activities to boost confidence and knowledge about using medicines and diagnostics tests safely and effectively, both for consumers and healthcare providers,’ the statement read.
‘These activities will be sourced through open, competitive application processes.’
A spokesperson for NPS MedicineWise also issued a statement acknowledging the outcome of the review and expressing disappointment that the original decision will stand.
‘Unfortunately, the review outcome is not one that we would have hoped for,’ the statement issued to newsGP reads.
‘The conclusion of the review has been found to be that the “policy intention of the 2022–23 Budget Measure is appropriate for the delivery of [Quality Use of Diagnostics, Therapeutics and Pathology (QUDTP)] program”.’ 

The spokesperson said Minister Butler contacted the organisation about the decision to redesign the QUDTP program, advising that medicine stewardship functions will move to the ACSQHC as previously indicated.
‘While not unexpected, this is an extremely disappointing outcome for the organisation,’ the NPS MedicineWise statement said.
‘We are working through the details and next steps for the organisation and more information will be provided as and when we are able to do so.’
At the time the original announcement became public, the Department of Health and Aged Care (DoH) said there will be grant processes for ‘projects to deliver health professional education and consumer education and health literacy around quality use of medicines and tests’.
The Minister’s spokesperson acknowledged the work of NPS MedicineWise ‘over many years to improve the quality use of medicines and diagnostic tests’ and said it is being ‘encouraged to seek to continue providing programs and activities through the future competitive funding rounds’.
When the original decision first become public, a number of GPs flagged potential issues, including Professor Mark Morgan, a member of the NPS MedicineInsight GP Advisory Group and Chair of the RACGP Expert Committee – Quality Care.
‘I am concerned that years of experience and knowledge that is held by NPS will be lost in any transfer of roles to another organisation,’ Professor Morgan previously told newsGP.
‘QUM should not be about saving dollars.
‘It should be about ensuring the right care to the right person at the right time. It should be about high-value care and not about lower cost care.’
The executive team at NPS MedicineWise also raised its concerns, with GP and Chair of the organisation’s board Dr Andrew Knight emphasising the need for an ‘independent, trusted advocate for quality use of medicines’.
He queried whether the ACSQHC would have the same level of trust among GPs and was also critical of the timing of the decision, which coincided with an ongoing review of the National Medicines Policy.
NPS MedicineWise is set up as an independent, arm’s length organisation, although much of its income has historically been reliant on federal funding. The latest four-year funding agreement was contained in the 2018 budget.
The exact future of many of the programs and publications currently overseen by NPS MedicineWise is not yet clear. These include the MedicineInsight quality improvement program and Radar, which advises health professionals about new drugs and tests, as well as medicines newly listed under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
NPS MedicineWise also produces the Australian Prescriber journal, with a recent petition urging Minister Butler to keep publication going. It attracted more than 7500 signatures in support.
The Minister’s statement did not directly address a newsGP query about the journal’s future.
A DoH review in late 2019 reported ‘almost universal acknowledgement that NPS MedicineWise produces high quality, valued resources in the delivery of its programs which support the Quality Use of Medicines and Diagnostics’.
However, the document also included 37 recommendations, which contained a number of criticisms of the organisation.
In the meantime, leaders at NPS MedicineWise say work carried out by the organisation has delivered direct savings worth $1.1 billion to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and Medicare Benefits Scheme (MBS).
They also say the work of the company has resulted in ‘demonstrable improvements in patient care and health outcomes for Australians’.
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Dr Daniel Petrus Jacobus Bothma   30/08/2022 9:05:29 AM

Another excellent decision by government to remove medical professionals' access to unbiased, not-industry sponsored information about medications.
Now another agency directly funded by the pharmaceutical industry will "govern itself", while no doubt promoting the overuse and overprescribing of unrequired medication with slim to no evidence for it's use.
Well done!

Dr Horst Paul Herb   30/08/2022 5:57:49 PM

Well, nobody can accuse the responsible politicians and bureaucrats of foresight nor due diligence towards the people of Australia. May they themselves one day suffer the consequences of their irresponsible decisions.