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Drop in medicine exports

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New figures show there has been a 30 per cent drop in Australia’s exported manufactured medicines in the past few years, with industry warning solutions to high manufacturing costs need to be addressed to compete, or risk losing out to growing markets in Asia.

Australian Bureau of Statistics trade figures released last month found Australia’s pharmaceutical export industry is now worth about $2.5 billion a year, a significant drop from 2012 when it was worth more than $4 billion.

Pharmaceutical exports have now fallen behind car exports and are on track to drop behind the wine export industry, which is worth just more than $2 billion a year.

The data has underlined recent warnings from Medicines Australia who say that an increasingly unstable business operating environment is discouraging companies, citing high wages, taxes, and a tangle of regulations.

Medicines Australia said that to further support the pharmaceutical industry the Government must identify additional ways to encourage more local innovation and adopt policies that will lead to more research and development, clinical trials, and advanced manufacturing investment.

The strong Australian dollar through much of 2012-2014 is another key factor in manufacturing competitiveness.

The Abbott Government has started putting in steps to overhaul drug cost reimbursement rules in order to ramp down costs, while at the same time setting up funding for biomedical research that could lead to more innovative drugs discovered locally.

A spokesperson for Industry and Science Minister Ian Macfarlane told the Sydney Morning Herald that the Government had identified medical technologies and pharmaceuticals as a key economic area in which Australia has the best potential to compete internationally and in which we can create new economic opportunities.

The spokesperson said the Government has chosen the sector for one of five new industry growth centres and added that the pharmaceuticals sector has been strengthened by a $50 million manufacturing transition program and a recently established health industry forum led by Mr Macfarlane and Health Minister Sussan Ley.


Kirsty Waterford