A healthy budget

Guild lauds pharmacy budget boost as AHI fee, CSO payments, DAAs and medication management gain extra funds

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia says it “welcomes confirmation that the Budget will provide $245 million over five years from 2018-19 to improve consumer access to medicines and support community pharmacies”.

A range of measures already touted were delivered by Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in last night’s Federal Budget, while a new naloxone program was funded and moves to set up a clinical pharmacist aged care team was also revealed.

Among the pharmacy-related funding allocations highlighted by the Guild were:

  • $215 million over three years from 2020-21 to provide additional remuneration to community pharmacies through increased Administration, Handling and Infrastructure (AHI) fees on all PBS scripts, which has been partially funded by reallocating funding from 6CPA professional programs. 
  • $15 million over three years from 2020-21 for additional Community Service Obligation payments to pharmacy wholesalers. 
  • $15 million in 2018-19 to promote quality use of medicines by patients through medication management programs in community pharmacy.
  • aligning public and private hospital pharmacy pricing with the community pharmacy pricing arrangements from 1 July 2019.
  • $213 million for the previously announced measures to improve PBS cash flow payment times for community pharmacies, from 9-16 days to 2-9 days. (The Guild points out this has no impact on the Government’s fiscal balance over the forward estimates but will have an impact on the Government’s underlying cash this financial year.)

The announcement of a PBS-subsidised take-home program for naloxone to help reduce overdose deaths from opioid abuse, was also welcomed by the Guild.

“This is a $7.2 million commitment which we strongly support,” Guild national president George Tambassis said. 

Health Minister Greg Hunt announced that the government would “provide further support for the quality use of medicines, through an increase in payments to community pharmacies to deliver more Dose Administration Aids Support, and Meds Check and Diabetes Meds Check services.

Meanwhile, it was announced that pharmacists would gain a new role in aged care settings, with the 2019-20 Budget seeing “a further initiative implemented to support adherence to the new Standards in relation to the use of medicines in aged care settings.

A small unit of clinical pharmacists will be created to support the Commission to ensure providers adhere to the new Standards and to deliver improved clinical outcomes for people in residential aged care”.

Minister Hunt said the government was making a “record investment” in health of $104 billion in 2019–20 as part of its “comprehensive, patient-focused long-term National Health Plan”.

“It guarantees Medicare, makes a range of life-saving medicines and services more accessible and affordable, reduces out-of-pocket costs, strengthens primary care and mental health and invests in breakthrough medical research,” he said.

There was a $5 billion boost for public hospital funding, from $21.7 billion in 2018–19, to $26.2 billion in 2022–23.

“In addition, patients in every state and territory will have access to improved health and hospital services under our landmark $1.25 billion Community Health and Hospitals Program (CHHP),” Mr Hunt said.

The Minister also announced a range of new PBS listings for 2019-20 that included:

  • osimertinib (Tagrisso) from 1 February 2019 for the treatment of lung cancer;
  • venetoclax (Venclexta) from 1 March 2019 for the treatment of acute lymphoblastic
  • brentuximab vedotin (Adcetris) from 1 April 2019 for the treatment of cutaneous
    T-cell lymphoma;
  • inotuzumab ozogamicin (Besponsa) from 1 May 2019 for the treatment of acute
    lymphoblastic leukaemia.

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  1. Bruce ANNABEL

    There are some nice initiatives in the budget for pharmacy several of which had already been announced at APP. EG: permitting retention of the 36c risk share and speeding up PBS receipts which is a one off costing the Govt $213m in 2018/19 (one off transfer to owners of almost $40,000 on average per pharmacy). I was disappointed to see the AHI funding being partially funded through reallocation from forecast professional services funding. However the big positive was the absence of the mooted 60 day script supply initiative potentially applicable to 143 chronic medicines that’s been sitting around since MYEFO late last year.
    Longer term though my niggling worry is that the five year forecasts to 2022/23 reflect no growth at all in the net (of ‘sponsoring’ supplier rebates) PBS spend yet they flagged additional listings and greater pharmacy funding not to mention there would be additional demand from an ageing population. How will these be funded? What savings measures do the government have in mind to achieve this? Is the extended script supply initiative dead or merely asleep, will the new listings like those of recent times be subject to Special Price Arrangements (aka capping), more supply chain ‘reforms’ etc. So the announcements read well and fantastic for pharmacy in the immediate future but zero PBS spending growth forecast may betray another agenda.

  2. Debbie Rigby

    I wonder if the “$215 million over three years from 2020-21 to provide additional remuneration to community pharmacies through increased Administration, Handling and Infrastructure (AHI) fees on all PBS scripts” sends a wrong message about the future direction of pharmacy. It is stated that it has
    been partially funded by reallocating funding from 6CPA professional programs. It will be a much-needed boost in the short-term for owners; but we so often hear the future direction and strategy is a greater role and responsibility in optimisation of medicines through professional services. Does the reallocation of funds indicate underutilisation of professional programs? Does it reflect the Guild’s continued focus on dispensing and not our potential contribution to QUM? I think it’s a short-term gain which will be welcomed by some, but does nothing to build on the momentum and imperative for pharmacists to take more responsibility and work to our full scope of practice.

  3. Stephen Carter

    It seems that the AHI boost has been funded (at least in part), by capping HMRs and RMMRs. While I understand that community pharmacy needs the AHI boost to keep up with inflation, frail and elderly consumers are the real losers here.

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