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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Government urged to ease pharmacy dispensing restrictions

Health Industry Hub | November 18, 2019 |

The Consumers Health Forum has urged the Federal Government to implement an expert recommendation to ease dispensing restrictions and permit consumers to get two months’ supply at a time of common prescribed medicines.

Australia’s leading health consumers organisation has called for the change as one of several recommendations for improvements to the Community Pharmacy Agreement currently being re-negotiated for a new five year term from 1 July 2020 between the Health Department and the Pharmacy Guild representing pharmacy owners.

“Consumers typically have more contact with pharmacists than with any other health professional and should have more say in the funding and design of pharmacy services,” the CEO of Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells, said today.

“We call on the Health Minister to take up the recommendation of the expert Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee which in April this year recommended that dispensing move from one to two months’ supply for some 143 medicines.

“Removing this often unnecessary restriction — unless prescribed otherwise by the doctor — would improve accessibility, convenience and affordability for consumers on routine medication who currently have to go back to the pharmacy every month for no good reason.

“This issue highlights the need for reform in pharmacy regulation and financing.  Community pharmacy is largely funded and governed through an agreement worth billions of dollars covering consumer-related services, yet consumers have little say in it.

“We are calling for several changes to the Community Pharmacy Agreement to open up the pharmacy sector, not just to consumer input but also to market forces,” Ms Wells said in releasing the Consumer Health Forum’s position statement on the Agreement.

“Our position statement urges reforms in key areas including:

  • Governance and greater say for consumers in oversighting the implementation of the Agreement
  • Splitting the agreement into two parts, one covering remuneration and the other covering professional services to the community to strengthen the consumer focus on services and invest in innovation in pharmacy service delivery
  • Transparency to give consumers more timely information on prices and consumer medicine information at the point of dispensing
  • Reporting and accountability by building in the mandated collection and open publication of information about outputs and outcomes achieved. This should include patient-recorded experience data.
  • Medication management for older people to meet the clear need for more support to the elderly for safe and effective medication management
  • Innovation to remove regulatory barriers such as anti-competitive location and ownership rules which stifle competition; and regulatory change to deal with innovations such as e-prescriptions and pharmacy vending machines

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“Pharmacies enjoy a protected place in the health economy and their Agreement with the Federal Government over payments for dispensing prescriptions and their other services is made behind closed doors.

“Yet there is a great scope for pharmacists to have a greater role outside the four walls of the pharmacy in advising consumers in the community and in nursing homes about medication safety and quality use of medicines, as well as working in collaborative team care arrangements with general practitioners.

“Consumers value the professional services pharmacists offer but there would be even more value to the community if there were more involved directly in primary care at health clinics, homes and in aged care,” Ms Wells said.

The 7CPA was originally slated to be signed off before the end of 2019, Health Minister Greg Hunt said at APP2019 in March, but sources say no sign-off is likely in the near future.

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