GPs in push for change to pharmacy ownership rules

Amanda Lyons

27/08/2019 3:23:04 PM

GPs have entered the fray over pharmacy regulation, arguing the current system is anti-competitive.

General practice and pharmacy buildings
GPs are calling on the Federal Government to allow GP pharmacy ownership in the next Community Pharmacy Agreement.

As consultation on the seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement (CPA) continues – broadening to include pharmacy mega-chain Chemist Warehouse and the peak body representing convenience stores – calls have been made to relax regulation around pharmacy ownership and location rules.
Under the current CPA rules, pharmacies can only be owned by qualified pharmacists, which the Pharmacy Guild argues is necessary to ensure the provision of patient-first care.
‘Cross-party political support for pharmacist-only pharmacy ownership is not ideologically driven nor is it due to some magic hold by the Pharmacy Guild,’ it declared in a recent statement.
‘Rather, it is because decision-makers rightly recognise that Australia’s community pharmacy system works extremely well and the reason it does is because professionally trained pharmacists who are obligated to put their patients first are directly invested in the system.’
But RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon firmly disagrees, arguing that allowing ownership beyond pharmacists would be good for the sector and wider community.
‘The current laws are anti-competitive, without any benefits to consumers,’ he told newsGP. ‘Anyone should be able to own a pharmacy, just like any business in Australia.
‘Increased competition would bring benefits to consumers in terms of price and service.’
GPs are the latest stakeholders to enter the CPA negotiations, with coalition group United General Practice Australia (UGPA) lobbying the Federal Government to allow GPs to own pharmacies.
Chair of the UGPA and President of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Tony Bartone, believes GP-owned pharmacies would be helpful in providing continuity of care.
‘It’s about following world’s best practice and understanding that by having doctors and co-located pharmacists working together in tandem in general practice, we not only increase convenience and access for our patients, but also improve health outcomes,’ he told 3AW.
While the RACGP is not part of UGPA, it is supportive of removing the closed-shop environment from pharmacy. Dr Nespolon believes loosening the regulations would enhance the quality of pharmacy services without compromising patient care.
‘Removing the ownership rules would allow pharmacy to come into the 21st century with, for example, online pharmacies being able to become more available,’ he said.
‘This still means that medications will be dispensed by pharmacists, but in a variety of settings that will allow the patient to choose what works best for them.’
The Pharmacy Guild is expected to counter the UGPA’s proposition to allow GP-owned pharmacies with the argument that such a move would encourage unnecessary prescription by doctors to maximise profit.
Dr Bartone denied this assertion, pointing out pharmacists are themselves trying to impinge on the territory of general practice.
‘They’re seeking to increase the amount of primary care services in their retail space so, really, it doesn’t fly,’ he said.
‘There are so many regulations, so many restrictions, and so many avenues to ensure that our ethics are guided by a long history of putting patients first.
‘And this is what’s guiding all of this advocacy in this area, is what’s best for the patient.’

Community Pharmacy Agreement ownership pharmacy prescribing

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Logic   28/08/2019 10:02:42 AM

Medical centers can be owned by anyone, including pharmacists, so why pharmacies can't be owned by anyone, including GPs?

John   28/08/2019 12:12:10 PM

Why isn’t RACGP part of UGPA?? They are the body that represents most of the doctors and need to get involved.

dr.john   28/08/2019 1:52:55 PM

Having read reports from two different sources today promoting the idea of GP's owing a pharmacy or having a co-located pharmacy in their medical practice, smells of too much medical authoritarianism. I my view only doctors should own medical practices.The medical workforce is too volatile and doctors don't tend to stay in one area for long periods of time. Restricting ownership of a practice to doctors only would reduce this. Owners who are non-doctors also strive to make profits ahead of patient care and possibly encourage over-servicing to make these profits. As for co-founding a pharmacy in a medical practice this could lead to over-prescribing and does not assure the best of patient care because patients will use different pharmacies to purchase medications and products, and their autonomy is not being respected if they are channeled into a pharmacy that is not of their choice but linked with a medical practice. Medicine stay out of Pharmacy and Pharmacy stay out of Medicine.

Dr Alam   28/08/2019 2:40:19 PM

If pharmacist can own a medical practice I can’t see anything wrong with Doctors own a pharmacy specially in remote country area where patient can get one stop service .

Pharmie   5/09/2019 9:04:41 AM

As a pharmacist I think this model would be much better than the current one where discount stores have taken over. Corporate intrests rule in big chains which negates the whole need for only pharmacists ownership. Even tho individual pharmacists are responsible for what they do, not owners or chains and professional remains high, I have seen lowering of standards of care due to the attitude of everything has to be done in lightening speed. In my exp, owners want a fast pharmacist, not one that provides good standard of care to patients. Being a part of a GP clinic wud need to happen alongside increasing scope of practice. We should be working more collaboratively not you write the Rx and I disp it.. I have little worries about GPs and conflict of interest as pharmacies have already sunken to depths of corporate interests in Australia it's shocking. It can't get any worse lol