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Ramsay Health Care is disrupting the pharmacy industry.

Overhaul pharmacists role and deregulate ownership, report chief suggests

The basic health care role of pharmacists needs to be overhauled, says the author of a report calling for an overhaul of the current prescription drug pricing system.  

Writing on academic website The Conversation, Dr Stephen Duckett, Health Program director at the Grattan Institute, says “pharmacists could also do more than they currently do”.

“If there are more pharmacies in competition with each other, the hope is they would compete on prices and the services they provide. Pharmacists could take some of the load off doctors, allowing GPs to concentrate on more difficult diagnostic problems”.

The role of pharmacists should be expanded so they become part of a coordinated team providing health care to their local community, Dr Duckett says.

In particular, local pharmacies, as part of a team with GPs, should be empowered to:

  • administer vaccinations
  • give drug information to patients, review their medication and adjust doses when required
  • prescribe repeat medications for patients with simple and stable medical conditions such as some cases of asthma, or straightforward drug requirements such as the contraceptive pill
  • work with GPs to manage treatment for patients with chronic diseases.

“Pharmacists are highly skilled health care professionals. With appropriate further training, they could safely perform these additional tasks,” he says.

“Giving pharmacists wider roles such as the authority to administer vaccinations and provide repeat prescriptions has been found to improve patient outcomes”.

He also calls for deregulation of pharmacy ownership regulations saying the current rules prevent competition in a way that benefits pharmacy owners more than consumers.

The report, entitled Cutting a better drug deal advocates “simple changes to the way prices are set under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme”.

It claims Australia is “overpaying for generic medicines that are no longer covered by patents” and that the government needs to “overhaul the rules for interchangeable drugs that are equally effective and safe for most people”.

As reported previously by AJP, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia said it “completely rejects” the headline assertion of the report.

“The Grattan Institute’s claim that ‘Australians pay too much for prescription drugs’ is unbalanced and misleading,” the Guild said in a statement.

Responding to Dr Duckett’s Conversation article, a Guild spokesperson added that pharmacists already are authorised to administer vaccinations in all States and Territories, however “some more recognition of this through the MBS would be welcome”.

Meanwhile, the peak body representing CSO wholesalers has also responded to the Grattan Institute report saying it is advocating a “simplistic response to a complex problem”.

National Pharmaceutical Services Association (NPSA) chair and Sigma Pharmaceuticals CEO Mark Hooper says the report showed little understanding of the enormous pressure on the pharmaceutical supply chain system.

“For the Grattan Institute to say their solutions would not undermine pharmacist income demonstrates a lack of understanding of the wider issues at play in Australia,” he says.

“The pharmaceutical supply chain system in its current form is unsustainable because of the PBS price reforms that have had a huge impact on how the delivery model is funded.

“Less than 10% of PBS medicines are now profitable to distribute because of the way the CSO wholesalers are remunerated. Simply advocating further PBS price cuts is only going to put further pressure on an already stressed system and will threaten the accessibility of medicines for Australian patients,” he says.

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  1. Philip Smith

    Its basically cheaper meds,less options available and slower service/deliveries, so those things won’t worry the city foke at the gratten institute to much with more choices than those in country Australia.

  2. Tony Lee

    Pharmacists are not doctors. To review medication and adjust doses is the domain of the doctor & dependent on a detailed patient history & often superior clinical knowledge.
    Nursing staff currently administer most vaccinations in a surgery, & enter straight into the doctor’s records. It seems to work well. We would need to be linked to the doctor’s data to vaccinate comprehensively & nurses deployed in other areas. If we vaccinate for flu (or other) now is this information entered into the doctor’s data?
    Location rules I have always seen as undemocratic; I understand an owners vested interests & investment , having owned before and after; currently the rules are being manipulated to empower & concentrate ownership to a small powerful well financed lobby. Aspiring owners with youth & initiative are locked out.
    Drug pricing is an ongoing saga and the pharmacists are bearing the brunt financially & politically. Let the drug companies, Govt & wholesalers determine the price, but note the pharmacist cannot hold stock on a shelf without a markup.
    The pharmacist must be rewarded with a viable increased dispensing (professional) fee to do what they are trained to do; accurately dispense then ensure the patient understands the medication, how they are to take it, & possible side effects. To relate back to the prescriber as necessary & work in disease management.
    And missing in the Gratten Report; cut the mountain of red tape and and paper endemic in both professions.

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