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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Health Department unveils list of medicines for 60-day dispensing, rallying support from consumer and clinician groups

Health Industry Hub | June 26, 2023 |

Pharma News: The Health Department has unveiled the first phase of a new policy that will allow 92 medicines to be dispensed for a period of 60 days starting from September 1. This announcement comes after the legislative instrument necessary to implement the policy change was registered on the Federal Register of Legislation, and it is expected to be tabled in the Senate next month.

The comprehensive list of medicines in this initial stage covers a wide range of conditions, including cardiovascular disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, gout, heart failure, high cholesterol, hypertension, and osteoporosis.

The new 60-day dispensing policy is supported by the Consumer Health Forum (CHF), Heart Foundation, Lung Foundation, Breast Cancer Network, and by all major doctors’ associations, including the Rural Doctors Association, Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), among others. This is despite the ongoing opposition raised by members of the pharmacy sector that the policy change could exacerbate critical shortages of essential medicines and significantly reduce pharmacists’ income.

During the Senate Committee proceedings in mid-June, Penny Shakespeare, Deputy Secretary for Health Resourcing, confirmed that the Pharmacy Guild had been informed of the government’s intentions to proceed with the 60-day dispensing during a meeting on March 28th. In fact, Ms Shakespeare clarified that the decision to proceed with the changes was made following several preceding discussions with the pharmacy sector, as far back as 2018 when the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) recommendations first came to light and as recent as 2023.

The Hon Mark Butler MP, Minister for Health and Aged Care, said “Every year, nearly a million Australians are forced to delay or go without a medicine that their doctor has told them is necessary for their health. The 60 day dispensing will halve the cost of medicines for millions of Australians, including pensioners, who are living with a chronic condition.”

Dr Danielle McMullen, Vice President of the AMA, hailed the policy change as a significant step forward. She emphasised the importance of affordable access to regular medicines and the impact it has on patient adherence. Dr McMullen addressed concerns raised about potential medicine shortages, stating, “The medicines shortages issue has been widely debunked, and we think it’s unfair on patients actually to still be holding this scare campaign. The policy doesn’t come into effect for some months yet, and actually, this doesn’t change how much medicine goes out the door. Patients will still be on the same amount of medication. It’s just a timing interval.”

Dr Elizabeth Deveny, CEO of CHF, said “There’s been a lot of misinformation circulating that is concerning consumers unnecessarily, but the bottom line is that 60-day scripts are good for the health of Australians, as well as their hip pocket.

“Increasing the ability for an estimated 11 million consumers with chronic conditions to get a 60-day supply of their medicines, instead of a 30-day supply, effectively halves the cost of their medicines each time they visit the pharmacy. In addition to saving money, which is so important with the current cost of living pressures, consumers will also save time and travel costs. This is especially important for consumers who live in rural and remote communities who often have to travel hundreds of kilometres to the nearest pharmacy.”

Dr McMullen emphasised that medication shortages in Australia are a separate issue from the 60-day dispensing policy and reassured patients that their medicine supply will not be affected in the long term. She stated “It is definitely sensible health policy, which is good for patients, and it’s now time to make it work.”

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