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Government urged to ease pharmacy dispensing restrictions


Matt Woodley


15/11/2019 11:58:08 AM

Allowing consumers to collect two months of scripts at a time is one of several proposed changes to the Community Pharmacy Agreement.

Pharmacy prescription
The Federal Government was expected to double the dispensing limit for 143 common medications earlier this year, but backed down after pressure from the Pharmacy Guild.

The calls for change, led by the Consumers Health Forum of Australia (CHF), have come during negotiations over the Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement (7CPA), which will come into force for five years from July 2020.
 
The Federal Government was expected to double the dispensing limit for 143 common medications earlier this year following a recommendation from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Council (PBAC), but backed down after pressure from the Pharmacy Guild.
 
CHF Chief Executive Leanne Wells urged Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt to re-introduce the extended dispensing limits, along with a number of other reforms she said would benefit consumers.
 
‘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,’ she said in a statement.
 
‘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.’
 
Other recommendations in the CHF’s position statement:

  • Governance and greater say for consumers in overseeing 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 for safe and effective management
  • Innovation to remove regulatory barriers such as anti-competitive location and ownership rules; and regulatory change to deal with innovations such as e-prescriptions and pharmacy vending machines
‘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,’ Ms Wells said.
 
‘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.’
 
The RACGP has previously supported proposed reforms designed to increase competition in the pharmacy sector that would benefit consumers.
 
Earlier this year, RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon accused the Pharmacy Guild of putting profits over patients after it successfully lobbied against expanding dispensing limits. He has also been in favour of relaxing ownership laws, which he believes are ‘anti-competitive’.
 
Negotiations over the 7CPA began in September and are ongoing, with the Government hopeful of securing a new agreement by the end of the year.

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