The Consumers Health Forum has called on the Federal Government to implement 60-day dispensing, as well as reform the PBS safety net
“The Seventh Community Pharmacy is due to come into effect on 1 July 2020 and this will determine the direction for community pharmacy for the next five years,” said the organisation’s CEO, Leanne Wells.
“We have urged reforms to ensure pharmacy is seen as part of the primary health care system with real benefits to consumers.”
In its pre-Budget submission, the CHF argues that the cost of medicines is an important factor in access to them, citing AIHW figures from 2018 which showed that around 7% of people who need a prescription medicine avoid or delay filling their script.
CHF says all its suggested measures around the pharmacy sector aim to make medicines more affordable.
“Moving to two months’ supply for many common medicines would reduce the cost of medicines for many people as well as providing greater convenience for consumers, especially those in in rural areas or with mobility problems,” the submission states.
In its submission CHF is also urging the Government to ensure that the eligibility for the “Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule” safety net is automated.
It further wants the PBS safety net reformed so that consumers with predictable high usage of PBS medicines could have their co-payments spread evenly over the year.
“The PBS safety net is designed to ensure high users of PBS medicines can afford to keep filling prescriptions,” the submission states.
“Unlike the MBS safety net, it does not automatically kick in when people reach the limits as it requires a person to get their community pharmacist to keep the record.
“If they use more than one pharmacist then they need records from both.
“We know some eligible people do not access the safety net. The Government has been undertaking a modernisation of the health and aged care payments system and that process should include the automation of eligibility for the safety net.
“People with chronic conditions are on medications for long periods of time and their usage is predictable.
“If they regularly become eligible for the safety net then they should be able to spread their mediation costs over the whole year, reducing payments for the initial ones and paying a bit more for those that would be at the lower or no cost under the safety net arrangement.
“This smoothing would help people on low and fixed incomes as the initial payments for medicines might be prohibitive.”
Double dispensing affecting 140 molecules was hinted to be a measure being considered for last year’s Federal Budget, but amid significant opposition from the pharmacy sector, was dropped, though the concept has continued to be bruited about.
Stakeholders including the Rural Pharmacy Network and the Pharmacy Guild of Australia have warned of potentially “catastrophic” effects on the pharmacy sector if 60-day dispensing was to become a reality.