60-day dispensing will in some cases more than halve pharmacy remuneration and “incapacitate” rural pharmacies, says rural pharmacy group
Concern is growing among rural pharmacists about the potential impacts of the government’s 60-day dispensing proposal, says the Rural Pharmacy Network Australia (RPNA) in a statement.
“It is widely acknowledged, including in the government’s own reports, that Australians living in rural and remote areas have shorter life expectancy, higher levels of disease and injury and poorer access to and use of health services compared to people living in metropolitan areas,” says RPNA.
“Rural pharmacists could be treating common ailments, extending prescriptions, and playing a more formalised role in collaboration with GPs to manage patients suffering from chronic disease, for example,” says the group.
“But, instead, proposed remuneration cuts will in some cases more than halve pharmacy remuneration and incapacitate rural pharmacies, leading to a reduction in pharmacy services, reduced opening hours, job losses, and likely pharmacy closures.
“Many towns around Australia are losing their medical services and now their pharmacies are under threat too. A lot is at stake here – patients are at risk of losing much more than they stand to gain.”
Michael Troy, of Southside Pharmacy Grafton in NSW, says the 60-day dispensing proposal will affect the viability of Dose Administration Aids and other free services such as blood pressure monitoring and home delivery.
“My patients will have to bear the out-of-pocket cost of these services. This will hit hard in my small rural town that has been experiencing drought and bushfire,” says Mr Troy.
Ian Magill, owner of Geeveston Pharmacy in Tasmania, calculates that “a medication pack patient may be over $500 worse off each year if 60-day dispensing is introduced in isolation.
“Healthcare is about equity of access and this policy of 60-day dispensing as it stands will only create a larger divide in our communities,” argues Mr Magill.
The Consumers Health Forum has this month re-iterated its call for the Federal government to permit consumers to get two months’ supply at a time.
In a statement issued on Friday,15 November, the CHF said its key focus is for the Health Minister to “take up the recommendation of the expert Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee which…. recommended that dispensing move from one to two months’ supply for some 143 medicines.”
“Removing this often unnecessary restriction — unless prescribed otherwise by the doctor — would improve accessibility, convenience and affordability for consumers on routine medication who currently have to go back to the pharmacy every month for no good reason,” CHF said.
However the RPNA says this would be a big mistake.
“It is highly concerning to our members that this proposal is still on the table. The government needs to understand the consequences for rural communities, at a time when medical services are already under significant strain,” it says.