Despite Health Minister Sussan Ley’s comments yesterday that the Sixth Community Pharmacy Agreement and the Agreement with generics manufacturers would result in cheaper medicines for consumers, the Consumers Health Forum remains unconvinced.
“Of concern to CHF, which has sought to counter rising health co-payments, is that consumers will be contributing significantly more in increased medicines costs,” the CEO of CHF, Leanne Wells, says.
“Figures in the new Agreement show that consumers will directly contribute an estimated $8.2 billion to pharmacy owners’ remuneration over five years and that amounts to 34% of the estimated $23.6 billion in total payments for PBS medicines to pharmacies.
“That’s up from the $4.8 billion or 29% of payments under the current Agreement.”
She say CHF welcomes the Government’s measures to bring down the prices of some drugs in line with the international market, to announce the listing of new drugs and the introduction of an optional $1 discount on prescription medicines.
“However, the Agreement represents a lost opportunity to drive reforms to loosen the grip of pharmacy owners on the anti-competition rules and provision of patient services covered by the new Sixth Community Pharmacy Agreement,” Wells says.
“Under the terms of the new Agreement the Pharmacy Guild is to be the only party to be consulted on the scope of the promised independent review into the location rules which protect existing pharmacy owners against competition.
“This is simply not good enough. Consultation over these terms of reference should include a broader group of stakeholders including a consumer representative, and the conduct of the review a public process.
“And despite the introduction of the optional $1 discount under the Agreement and its benefit to patients, we are concerned that the Guild is declaring it will not facilitate this measure which hit describes as ‘a matter for the Government’.”
She says CHF welcomes the doubling of the allocation for community pharmacy programs and professional services, which should foster stronger supports for projects like HMRs.
“However we question the implication of the Agreement that new primary care programs be rolled out only through retail pharmacies.
“If we wanted to make our primary health care system even better, we need to promote the patient-centred health care home as well as consumer choice about where they get their primary health care.
“If the Minister is serious about encouraging a greater role for pharmacies in primary care – which we support – we need to see support for a flexible, collaborative approach which would include, for instance, professional pharmacists working as part of the general practice team.
“The redirection of product supply and delivery funding from the National Diabetes Services Scheme run by Diabetes Australia to pharmacies and wholesalers is also an issue of significant concern and we will be seeking further information from the Minster on how the patient support and education services currently provided by Diabetes Australia and other services which cannot be provided through pharmacy will be maintained under the new arrangements.”