The de-listing of some OTC medications from the PBS is “pure speculation” and a decision not to be taken lightly, says NSW Guild president, Paul Sinclair.
NSW Pharmacy Guild President, Paul Sinclair says the suggested de-listing of some over-the-counter medications, such as paracetamol from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme is “pure speculation vented in the general media”. The Guild, Sinclair tells the AJP, has not received any formal confirmation from the Minister of Health Sussan Ley.
“We have not received anything from Minister Ley’s office. The de-listing of medicines are decisions for government which has to follow the PBAC process based on clinical advice and the Guild is not privy to those discussions,” says Sinclair.
Sinclair says the Guild supports affordability of medications and the de-listing of some medications would obviously see a volume drop in the prescriptions that are dispensed and a significant increase in the cost of these medications.
“There are a few issues here. People who would seek consultation with their doctors and receive prescriptions for paracetamol and aspirin would have them as part of their medication dispensing history. And if decisions made in the clinical process of dispensing are not part of a patient’s medication records, then healthcare professionals such as pharmacists would be less informed about the patient’s medication history,” says Sinclair, adding that this has implications for patients.
“If a patient is going into surgery are they having the anti-coagulant aspirin? This is critical information when people present to a hospital and in fact community pharmacies get calls every day from hospitals wishing to have the medication lists of patients provided to them. Now with the D-listing of paracetamol and aspirin it is highly unlikely that pharmacists would that have that information as it would no longer be part of the clinical dispensing process,” says Sinclair.
While the mainstream media has been quick to jump on speculation about the de-listing of paracetamol and other OTC medications from the PBS to reportedly pay for the inclusion of other medications, Sinclair warns the decision isn’t as cut and dried as suggested.
“The notion of affordability comes into play. The de-listing of medicines historically has seen the cost to patients go up significantly as the pharmaceutical companies increase the price per unit as they are no longer on the PBS. In particular, say, the anti-fungals that were once on the PBS and are not now and now cost a lot more,” says Sinclair.
Beyond price, Sinclair suggests there were reasons these OTC medicines were placed on the PBS. “All of these over-the-counter medications being considered for de-listing such as paracetamol and aspirin have important clinical considerations as they have quite potent compounds. We hope that the end decision is based on sound clinical advice and is not a cost-cutting measure that is detrimental to vulnerable patients,” says Sinclair.