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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

NSW Government makes pharmacy program permanent despite pending evaluation

Health Industry Hub | June 3, 2024 |

Pharma News: Starting June 1, women in New South Wales can bypass their general practitioners (GPs) and head directly to pharmacies for the treatment of uncomplicated urinary tract infections (UTIs). This follows the completion of a year-long trial involving over 1,000 pharmacists and 16,000 patients, funded by a $6 million government investment.

The change comes as an evaluation of the program is yet to be conducted by the University of Newcastle’s chief investigator Sarah Dineen-Griffin, with the results expected to be provided to the NSW Ministry of Health by early 2025.

The NSW government will no longer cover the $20 consultation fee per patient. Pharmacists will now set their own fees for the consultation, in addition to medication costs. Patients will bear these expenses out-of-pocket, as the service is ineligible for Medicare rebates or bulk billing.

NSW Health Minister Ryan Park emphasised the benefits of this change, noting it would alleviate pressure on primary care services.

“Enabling pharmacists to do more will mean many women will get timely access to the care they need,” he said. “Ensuring continuity of care will be crucial as pharmacy service offerings increase, including strengthened communications between pharmacists and doctors about a patient’s treatment.”

Pharmacy Guild of Australia NSW Branch President, David Heffernan, expressed readiness for the new responsibilities, stating pharmacists are prepared to “step up to take some of the pressure off of GP clinics and hospitals.”

However, concerns remain. GPs have previously noted several ‘concerning’ clinical incidents during a similar UTI pharmacy prescribing trial in Queensland.

As the initiative proceeds before the trial’s evaluation is published, claims that it will reduce pressure on GP practices remain speculative. Additionally, the introduction of out-of-pocket costs, unlike the free service during the trial, may result in lower uptake in certain areas.

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