Australia’s healthcare regulations struggle to keep up with population ageing: GlobalData

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The growing elderly population and its associated disease burden add to the economic challenges faced by the Australian government, according to a new report by healthcare experts GlobalData.

The report states that the Australian healthcare market is driven by universal healthcare coverage and good access to facilities such as government-subsidised medicines. However, the growing elderly population and its associated disease burden are set to challenge Australia’s ability to maintain this level of care.

Universal healthcare coverage, good access to healthcare facilities and subsidised essential drugs are the distinguishing features of the Australian healthcare system. Medicare offers universal access to healthcare and covers the entire population through programmes such as the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), the Australian Childhood Immunization Register, and the Australian Organ Donor Register. Medicare ensures access to free or low-cost medical and hospital care, and a government subsidy for drugs dispensed under PBS is available.

However, the government is implementing major PBS reforms in order to reduce its healthcare expenditure; such reforms include a payment of $1.40 to pharmacies for substitutable and premium-free PBS-subsidised drugs, introduced in July 2010.

Australia boasted a population of approximately 22.4 million in 2010, and the population aged 65 years and older is projected to account for approximately 18.3 per cent of the population by 2020. This is due to a longer life expectancy, improved healthcare facilities, and strong financial and healthcare support by the government. The government has a high level of financial and policy responsibility for health services, such as hospitals, public health, and drug availability. As the elderly population increases, so too does the Australian governments cost burden, which is due to overwhelm state finances in the not too distant future.

Despite these problems, the rapidly growing elderly population and increased awareness of chronic diseases in Australia guarantee that the country’s well-defined regulatory guidelines and increasing pharmaceutical R&D expenditure will lead to strong growth in the medical care and diagnostic markets. Australia has a transparent and efficient regulatory system to facilitate the approval of pharma products and medical devices. The main regulatory authority for pharma products and medical goods is the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), a division of the Department of Health and Ageing. The TGA’s overall purpose is to protect public health and safety by regulating therapeutic goods that are either supplied through imports, manufactured in Australia or exported from Australia. Market authorisation of a new drug or medical device requires the execution of good laboratory practice and compliance with TGA standards. Therefore, Australia’s growing elderly population may serve a purpose in fuelling medical discoveries.

The pharma market in Australia was valued at approximately $14.9 billion in 2010 and is projected to reach approximately $30.5 billion in 2020, at a compound annual growth rate of 7.4 per cent.

EP News Bureau – Mumbai

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