Medicines Australia and the Western Desert Dialysis Truck

The Purple House’s (Western Desert Nganampa Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku) dialysis truck has been a long time coming. But the wait is worth it.

Cross border issues with funding and the locations to where patients in the tri-state (WA/SA/NT) area have to move for dialysis means members of remote communities can be a long way from home.

This dialysis truck can move to any central Australian Aboriginal community to allow some dialysis patients from the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia to return home to country and spend time with family.

Despite the benefits this truck will bring I am a little annoyed by how the funding for this truck is portrayed.

There was no government money involved but that didn’t stop the politicians coming out for the handover of the vehicle to this Indigenous owned and controlled dialysis service.

But that isn’t what annoys me.

The money came from the pharmaceutical industry group Medicines Australia. And here is where it starts to annoy me.

Western desert dialysis truck

In all the reports including ABC TV news, Medicines Australia press release and even this article by the head of the WDNWPT applaud the generosity of the industry in donating the money for this $340,000 dialysis truck.

The reality is that it isn’t a donation where members have said “oh this is a good idea – lets chip in to help”. It is funded by the collection of fines from when Medicines Australia members (drug companies) break their own guidelines when spruiking their drugs.

If drug companies are thought to have breached the Code of Conduct they are asked to front the monitoring committee where if found guilty are fined what I consider to be peanuts for a large multinational company. The fines in 2010-2011 (see pages 11-12), totalled $160,000.

So drug companies continually breach their code of conduct, pay a fine which their industry body collects and then “donates” making the industry appear wonderful.

As Jarrad Hall commented on Twitter

I wonder if we little people can do that. I feel like donating to charity, I might go speeding later

I’d prefer some openness and honesty in saying where the money comes from.

But should Medicines Australia be allowed to hang on to these fines at all?

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Robbo is a pharmacist working with a very remote Aboriginal Health Service in the deserts of Western Australia. + Andrew Robbo Roberts

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