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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Long-awaited PBAC recommendation paves way for new medicines dispensing rule

Health Industry Hub | April 24, 2023 |

Pharma News: Under a pre-budget move, the Albanese government has notified the Pharmacy Guild of Australia of its intention to allow 60-day dispensing which will double the amount of medicines patients can purchase from their local pharmacy effective 1 July 2023.

The move follows calls from the Australian Medical Association (AMA), Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and member for Kooyong, Dr Monique Ryan, to implement the Pharmacy Benefits Advisory Committee’s (PBAC) recommendation from 5 years ago to increases the maximum dispensed quantities of more than 140 medications from one to two months’ supply.

This change in dispensing will provide consumers both financial and convenience benefits, in addition to reducing the burden on GPs. It will also free up more than $1 billion in the May budget.

However, pharmacists are warning the “cost cutting exercise” would see more hoarding and overdoses and put 75 medicines, include those for high cholesterol, depression and anxiety, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease, in chronic shortage leading to severe delays.

Andrew Topp, Group Business Manager of the Capital Chemist Group, said “Devastated to learn of the PM’s plan to slash funding to pharmacies providing services to the public. The cuts proposed will destroy the community pharmacy network. This secretive plan – despite pre-and post-election promises that are being broken as we speak – will see the typical pharmacy forced to reduce services to the public.”

Pharmacists have had a different strategy in pushing for affordable medicines in the recent weeks. Their campaign called on the government to reduce the PBS co-pay to just $19. The Pharmacy Guild launched a petition for its campaign and estimated that reducing the PBS co-pay would cost around $920 million over four years.

However, Former Grattan Institute economist Professor Stephen Duckett referred to Pharmacy Guild’s campaign as a ‘Guild scam to drive discounters out of business’ on social media.

He said “The proposal from PBAC is carefully designed to be safe. The government has recently negotiated with generics to ensure adequate supply in the country. The Guild is pursuing a self-interested agenda to rort taxpayers.”

RACGP President, Dr Nicole Higgins, said “People across Australia are having to make impossible decisions like whether to fill up their car or buy fruit and vegetables and so there has never been a more important time to make these changes.”

In fact, 22% of people aged 18-64 describe prescription medicine as unaffordable and 771,000 Australians delayed or did not fill a prescription in 2021-22 due to cost.

“I’m on the pharmacotherapy program and my medication costs me $60 a fortnight. For that alone. Not to mention if I need anything else. If it wasn’t for my pharmacy letting me open an account to pay things off slowly my kids and I would often go without things until pay day. Because when I get paid the money is already allocated to groceries, petrol, rent and more,” said one consumer in signing Pharmacy Guild’s petition for affordable medicines.

“I’ve suffered terrible side effects on numerous occasions from skipping medication due to cost. I can only afford to treat one of my health issues at a time as it is. I’ve stopped seeing my specialist as I can’t afford it,” commented another consumer.

While the joint calls from the AMA and RACGP have achieved its purpose in increasing the maximum dispensed quantities from one to two months, the AMA is calling for further pharmacy reforms. Multiple reports and inquiries over two decades have recommended the removal of anti-competitive pharmacy ownership and location rules, yet they remain in place. The AMA is therefore calling for the removal of these rules as well as an increase in the extent pharmacies can discount the PBS patient co-payment, currently restricted to $1, which has not been indexed since 2016.

Australia’s challenged healthcare system across the entire patient journey and the evolving health needs of consumers is a strong prompt for the federal government to act now.

In reimagining healthcare across the entire patient journey, Health Industry HubTM is the only one-stop-hub bringing the diversity of Pharma, MedTech, Diagnostics & Biotech sectors together to inspire meaningful change.

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