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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Doubts loom over government’s ability to meet pharmacy agreement deadline

Health Industry Hub | February 19, 2024 |

Pharma News: In a race against the clock, the Department of Health and Aged Care (DoH) is under scrutiny as the deadline for the 8th Community Pharmacy Agreement (8CPA) looms.

The journey towards the 8CPA began in September 2023 when the Pharmacy Guild and the Albanese Government entered negotiations 15 months ahead of the current CPA expiration. A commitment was made to secure a new agreement set to commence on March 1, 2024.

To foster what was referred to as “good faith negotiations” with the government, the Pharmacy Guild temporarily halted its aggressive public campaign against the 60-day dispensing policy. The negotiations, crucial for the future of pharmacy dispensing and services, have been ongoing behind closed doors.

At the Estimates, Senator Anne Ruston, Shadow Minister for Health and Aged Care, pressed the DoH on the progress of the 8CPA negotiations. Inquiring about the deadline, Senator Ruston questioned, “We are less than two weeks away from the first of March. Do you believe there’s any chance that the deadline will be met?”

In response, Penny Shakespeare, Deputy Secretary of the Health Resourcing Group, Department of Health and Aged Care, stated “The department is using its best endeavours to make that timeframe. We have an agreement with the Pharmacy Guild and many other stakeholder groups that we’re consulting with around future pharmacy dispensing and services arrangements.”

Concerns were raised about the length of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) if the March 1 deadline is not met. Ms Shakespeare clarified, “The deed which was entered into by both government and the Guild has an expiry date of the 30th of June.”

Professor Trent Twomey, President of the Pharmacy Guild, speaking at the Pharmacy Connect conference in Sydney last year, revealed that the Guild had engaged a King’s Counsel to assess the viability of seeking damages for any breach of the current CPA. The counsel would also explore transforming the 8CPA from a “gentleman’s agreement” to a more robust contractual arrangement.

Senator Ruston redirected the question relating to the 8CPA to Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health, seeking assurance about the government’s ability to meet the deadline for the 8CPA.

Senator McCarthy refused to elaborate, saying “We still have time before the first of March comes around. It certainly remains the intention of our government for this to conclude by the first of March.”

The Federal Government, The Pharmacy Guild, and the PSA are anticipated to be the signatories of the 8CPA, following previous agreements. As the clock ticks down, the outcome of these negotiations holds significant implications for the pharmacy sector and the healthcare landscape in Australia.

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