Doctor group calls for pharmacy program funding

Pharmacy programs are about providing health services and should be funded under an MBS-style system separate to dispensing, says AMA

Should pharmacy programs be funded separately from dispensing services?

The Australian Medical Association believes so, according to its submission on the interim report of the Review of Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation.

There are benefits in future CPAs being limited to remuneration for the dispensing of PBS medicines and associated regulation, argues the AMA.

“This would allow pharmacy programs, such as medication adherence and management services currently funded under the agreement, to be funded in ways that are more consistent with how other primary care health services are funded,” it says in its submission.

“Given these programs are about providing health services, rather than medicines dispensing per se, it makes sense for them to be assessed, monitored, evaluated and audited in a similar way to medical services under the MBS.”

PSA national president Shane Jackson agrees government funding needs to recognise pharmacy services in some shape or form.

“Often pharmacists can sit down with someone for 20 or 30 minutes. They might not be eligible for a MedsCheck but you’ve just spent that time. And that time has some value,” he says.

“We have a community pharmacy agreement that says funding is allocated a certain way. What we need to do is say, well, is that the best way to allocate our funding given it’s a health-related activity?

“It doesn’t necessarily have to be an MBS-style payment, it might well be a community pharmacy-style payment for services. We don’t actually necessarily need to look at other buckets of money to fund that, but what we do need is for the government to not just see us in the PBS budget.”

However the PSA has been calling specifically for access to Medicare-subsidised Chronic Disease Management items associated with Team Care Arrangements for some time, as well as MBS funding for medication management reviews.

The AMA also critiques the current process surrounding funding for pharmacy programs, saying there is a lack of transparency and accountability under the current community pharmacy agreement.

It claims that no evaluations of pharmacy programs under the 6CPA have yet been made public.

Location rules

The AMA says it also supports changes to pharmacy regulation which would allow more pharmacies and medical practices to be co-located.

“The current restrictions are inflexible and are difficult to justify in terms of public benefit,” says the AMA.

It refers to the Australian government’s current agreement with the Pharmacy Guild, stating it is “disappointed” that the government has made this decision.

“Facilitating collaboration between medical practitioners and pharmacists will only improve patient outcomes through less medication mismanagement and better medication compliance.”

Meanwhile the Pharmacy Guild of Australia argues that the purpose of location rules is to ensure the objectives of the National Medicines Policy are delivered.

“[The King Review] completely ignores the adverse impact on both access and competition that has resulted from the removal of pharmacy locational restrictions in overseas markets,” says the organisation in its submission.

“As is the case with dispensing remuneration, the Review fails to recognise the core social purpose of the location rules, which is to enable government to ensure that the supply objectives of the National Medicines Policy are delivered as equitably and efficiently as possible.”

The Guild also says the review panel has ignored the results of multiple studies that demonstrate the superior level of consumer access to community pharmacies compared with other similar services without location rules.

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  1. fiquet

    AMA is making a valuable and intelligent suggestion there. Would love to see some MBS-style funding in the pharmacy … this will decrease the reliance on co-selling shampoo and vitamins, while showing the governenment and customers that pharmacist advice has value.

    • Ron Batagol

      Couldn’t agree more! MBS
      type of remuneration for professional services for pharmacists. Many of us have been advocating this for years, so far to no avail!
      Also, potential for valuable collaborative input into patient medication management and monitoring of patient care plans with co-location with. GP clinics, as has been done overseas for some time.

      • Tony Lee

        Spot on Ron. The motives of the AMA always warrant a close look (as do the Guild, PSA etc.) but frankly I think MBS is a no brainer.
        Shall not mention location rulings as my thoughts are well known, but I do applaud the Guild for it’s initiative & action maintaining & expanding the status quo.

    • Andaroo

      Might be pessimistic / cynical of me but I think this could have been more about the ease and applicability of Dr’s being able access this funding by employing a pharmacist (max FTE $65000) to supply pharmaceutical services through medical centres (funding of ~$180000?) than supporting independent pharmacist funding. Figures are from what I recall the gp in clinic pharmacist numbers were…

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