During the COVID-19 pandemic, the general public badly needs certainty around access to medicines, says one pharmacy leader
Following the postponement of the Pharmacy Guild’s flagship Australian Pharmacy Professional Conference on the Gold Coast – which was to have run from next Wednesday, March 18 – Trent Twomey, the president of the Guild’s Queensland branch, called for a swift signing of the Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement and changes to manage shortages.
The call comes amid reported “massive shortages” of vital medicines as a result of the coronavirus.
The Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement is due to come into effect on 1 July 2020. At the 2019 APP conference a year ago, Health Minister Greg Hunt had said it would likely be signed off by the end of last year, but negotiations, which for the first time include the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia in addition to the Guild and Government, continue.
“Following on from the postponement of APP, the Pharmacy Guild’s first priority is the health, safety and wellbeing of Australians, who visit the community pharmacy network more than 450 million times a year,” Trent Twomey said.
“The first priority of the Guild is to look after Australians, and thus the pharmacy workforce.”
He said that he and national president George Tambassis will continue to travel and negotiate with the Government, and “hope that the 7CPA can come to a swift and positive conclusion in the best interest of Australians”.
“The economic impact of this crisis is going to be felt long after the health impact is finished, and there is no better show of stability that the Government can send than the signing of a 7CPA,” he told the AJP, highlighting the issue of shortages.
“Continuity of care for all our patients is our number-one priority. To have continuity of care, we need not only the physical network, and the workforce to staff that network, but also the products available to meet the dispensing demand.
“We currently have unavailable molecules, in the blood pressure space, in the respiratory space and in the broad-spectrum antibiotics space.
“We need to make sure that both dispensers and providers do not add to the panic, but also to ensure that dispensers have all the necessary tools available to them to ensure that care is continued uninterrupted.
“If we need to maintain care and a molecule is unavailable, the restrictions on therapeutic substitution need to be immediately removed.”
He said that the Guild is currently working with the Commonwealth and States on this issue.
“For example, if Celebrex 200 becomes unavailable, we should be able to substitute Celebrex 100. If a particular statin becomes unavailable, we should be able to substitute for another statin; if a particular ACE inhibitor becomes unavailable, we should be able to substitute for an equivalent.
“All these things need to be done with patient consent in a transparent way, using modern health tools such as My Health Record, but our first priority is patient care – and the Guild is working with our sister organisations such as the Society and the College to ensure we are solutions focused and working with Minister Hunt and the Government.”
Trent Twomey also welcomed the economic stimulus package, which he said had already provided “immediate relief in the show of confidence that the Government has acknowledge the pressures the small business network is feeling”.
“The relief will come as soon as we lodge our next BAS, and will ensure we can pay our wholesalers, our rent and our staff.”
APP, which was expected to draw more than 6000 visitors from around the country to the Gold Coast next week, has now been postponed and the Guild is looking at presenting sessions in an online format.
On Friday Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that non-essential gatherings of 500 people or more should not go ahead, starting Monday.
He also said Australians should reconsider any non-essential travel.