Budget windfall for health

Big health budget boost with telehealth, aged care and mental health at the forefront, but little specific to pharmacy announced

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg released the 2021-22 Federal Budget last night, revealing a substantial boost to overall health funding.

However, there was little in the new measures that were specific to the pharmacy sector, with the Pharmacy Guild expressing disappointment at no funding for dose administration aids for at-home aged care, nor for opioid replacement therapy programs.

The take-home naloxone pilot program did receive additional funding, and pharmacy was still included in COVID-19 vaccination funding and planning. 

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the Morrison Government had committed $121.4 billion to health in 2021–22 and $503 billion over the next four years.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, we have committed over $25 billion towards our COVID-19 health response,” he said.

“This includes measures in the 2021–22 Budget, including $1.1 billion to extend our COVID-19 health response to support Australians throughout the pandemic, and $1.9 billion to drive the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

In addition we are extending COVID-19 health measures by investing $204.6 million to extend telehealth arrangements until 31 December 2021, bringing total investment to date to $3.6 billion.”

Two of the big ticket health items were a $17.7 billion investment in aged care and a $2.3 billion investment in the National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan – the largest Commonwealth mental health investment in Australia’s history.

Community pharmacy remains on the Government’s COVID-19 vaccination provision radar, with the Budget papers stating that “vaccinations will be rolled out through more than 4,300 accredited
general practices and GP led respiratory clinics (GPRCs), with additional points of presence to be brought on board through Australia’s world leading community pharmacy network.”

Mr Hunt also highlighted and additional investment of $3.9 million to continue the Take Home Naloxone (THN) pilot program for a further 12 months. The pilot is already operating in NSW, SA and WA.

Other key health announcements included:

  • $135.4 billion over five years to continue “record level investment” in public hospitals, including funding under the 2020–25 National Health Reform Agreement (NHRA) and the National Partnership on COVID-19. 
  • $781.1 million to prioritise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and ageing outcomes 
  • $29.9 million investment in the preparedness and capacity of the National Medical Stockpile, and ensure health and aged care workers can access personal protective equipment. 
  • $169.8 million to ensure access to safe services, medicines and up-to-date information on COVID-19. This includes $87.5 million to support GP-led Respiratory Clinics treat patients, $11.5 million to deliver the Home Medicine Service, and $7.1 million to ensure mental wellbeing service support through Beyond Blue. 
  • $43 billion over four years “to make medicines available and affordable” through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) 

New and recent PBS listings to be funded include:

  • Emgality (galcanezumab) from June 2021, for the treatment of chronic migraine which
  • From May 2021, Australia’s first medicinal cannabis product has been added to the PBS, Epidyolex (cannabidiol) for use in the treatment of Dravet syndrome
  • Kisqali (ribociclib + fulvestrant), from April 2021 for treating locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer
  • Dupixent (dupilumab) from March for treating severe atopic dermatitis
  • Tulicity (dulaglutide), from March for the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus

Major funding for women’s health had already been announced in advance of the Budget.

Pharmacy Guild of Australia national president, Professor Trent Twomey welcomed the Budget but noted it did not “take the opportunity to better utilise community pharmacists in support of at-home care” via funding of dose administration aids.

The Guild was also disappointed at the Government’s lack of recognition of Australians who need a nationally consistent and affordable Opioid Replacement Therapy program.

However, Professor Twomey said he was “very pleased to see the important role community pharmacy must play in the COVID-19 vaccination rollout is reflected in $35.8 million being allocated for a temporary community pharmacy program  to administer vaccines to patients in Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the rollout.” 

We will include more Budget reaction from the Guild and other groups later today, and in our Thursday newsletter


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