The launch of the Pharmacy Diabetes Screening Trial is a key step in progressing the Pharmacy Trial Program (PTP), says David Quilty, Pharmacy Guild executive director
It is now 17 months since the Sixth Community Pharmacy Agreement was signed and the diabetes trial is the first to get off the ground under the Agreement’s $50 million PTP The launch of the diabetes trial therefore is a very welcome development.
Community pharmacies have been expressing increased concerns over the slow rollout of the PTP and whether they will be able to access the $600 million for new and expanded pharmacy programs from 1 July 2017.
Patients in rural and remote areas and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are a particular focus for the PTP and the new and expanded pharmacy programs and the Guild has raised fears that these patients will be the big losers if the Agreement’s commitments are not delivered upon on time and in full.
The Pharmacy Diabetes Screening Trial is significant in that it is a demonstrable step in achieving delivery of the Agreement’s commitments while also promising significant benefits for health consumers in this country.
The PTP was established to trial new and expanded programs that seek to improve clinical outcomes for consumers and/or extend the role of pharmacists in the delivery of primary healthcare services through community pharmacy.
Its full delivery is important to the viability of community pharmacies in the face of ongoing impacts from the PBS Access and Sustainability Package that was negotiated in tandem with the 6CPA.
Diabetes was selected as a focus of the trial because of the growing incidence of the disease. Type 2 diabetes usually develops in adults over the age of 45 years, but increasingly is becoming common in younger age groups, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and those with a family history of diabetes.
The latest data shows the prevalence of diabetes is more than 4 per cent, and growing quickly. Also, it is estimated that there are four undiagnosed cases for every five diagnosed cases.
In announcing the diabetes trial, the Minister for Health and Aged Care Sussan Ley said: “We see pharmacists playing a critical role with one in two Australians having a chronic health condition and one in five managing two or more.”
The Guild welcomes the launch of the trial under which 363 randomly-selected pharmacies across Australia will test the effectiveness of different approaches in diabetes detection.
Patients in the trial are aged 35-74 years, are not suffering from diabetes or impaired blood sugar control, and have not have been tested for diabetes in the previous 12 months.
The trial involves three alternative models of screening the general population to detect risk, aid diagnosis and enable earlier interventions to prevent the development of diabetes and its complications. Based on the screening outcome, the patient may then be referred to their doctor for follow-up.
The trial is a collaboration between the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, the University of Sydney and Deakin University.
Minister Ley said extending the role of community pharmacists in primary health care would help more Australians to be tested for type 2 diabetes,
“We see pharmacists playing a critical role with one in two Australians having a chronic health condition and one in five managing two or more,” the Minister said.
“GPs and pharmacists and are two key pillars of our primary health care system and a teams-based approach promoting co-ordination among health care professionals will better meet patients’ needs.
“This model keeps GPs at the centre of patient care but allows pharmacists, who have high levels of contact with the community, to identify and refer patients to a GP.”
Minister Ley said that under the trial, early detection would include a risk assessment questionnaire to determine if someone could develop diabetes within the next five years, and may also include screening a drop of the person’s blood for diabetes-related health indicators through a simple finger prick test
“Based on the outcome of these simple checks, the customer will then be referred to their doctor for follow-up,” she said.