Guild calls for national approach to continued dispensing as Victoria becomes the second state to extend emergency supply measures
The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services has made an order that extends the emergency supply measures initially passed during this year’s bushfires.
Emergency supply measures in Victoria were set to expire on 1 April 2020, but have now been extended from 26 March 2020 until 27 September 2020 unless earlier revoked.
Under the order, patients will be able to receive a maximum PBS quantity or pack size without a prescription, where the pharmacist is satisfied there is immediate need, usually a months’ supply for most medicines.
“Direct access to the health workforce to obtain a prescription may be more difficult given that self-isolation for persons impacted by COVID-19 is one mechanism for the prevention, management and treatment of human infection by COVID-19,” said Victorian Secretary to the Department of Health and Human Services Kym Peake.
“The purpose of this order is to enable persons in Victoria to obtain a Schedule 4 poison directly from a pharmacist, in certain circumstances, for the duration of this order.”
Pharmacists must be satisfied that there an immediate need for the poison and it is impracticable for the patient to obtain a prescription in time to meet that need, and record that the sale or supply was made under the COVID-19 public health emergency order, among other requirements.
PSA Victorian President John Jackson congratulated the state government for extending the emergency supply rules.
“PSA fully supports and thanks the Victorian Government for this very sensible approach which will enable patients to maintain access to their prescription medicines at time when GPs and broader health care sector are under extreme pressure,” said Mr Jackson.
“As the peak national body for pharmacists, PSA has called for and worked with the Victorian government to allow the continuation of emergency dispensing that was put in place during the recent bushfire crisis to ensure patients and members of the community continue to gain access to much needed medicines.”
Following announcements from both the NSW and Victorian state governments, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia is calling for continued dispensing measures introduced in response to the bushfire crisis in January to be made permanent across the country, to help the healthcare system cope with the COVID-19 emergency.
“In January, the Health Minister Greg Hunt gave patients access to one month’s supply of medication on the PBS at a community pharmacy, without a prescription,” said National President of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, George Tambassis.
“NSW and Victoria have moved to extend their emergency supply measures, meaning patients will be able to be supplied with a month’s supply of medication – but not at the PBS price unless action is taken.
“Today, I am urging the Commonwealth to follow the lead of NSW and Victoria to make this nationally consistent, allowing patients around Australia to get their medication on the PBS, without a prescription, to help address the COVID-19 crisis – and to make it permanent.”
Under these arrangements, the supply of medicine is subject to strict professional guidelines. Only Schedule 4 (prescription) medications can be supplied, the patient must have previously been prescribed this medicine by a doctor, and the pharmacist must be satisfied it is urgently needed.
“We are living through a crisis and our patients’ needs come first. Working together with the government to give them access to their medication, through the PBS, without a prescription would help community pharmacists to assist their patients,” said Mr Tambassis.
“Australians are doing it tough at the moment, so making emergency supply measures permanent and nationally consistent, would make life that much easier. It would mean our patients don’t have an additional, unnecessary cost or have to wait for action each time a crisis arises.
“Pharmacists have been on the frontline, supporting patients in all times of crisis and now is no different. This is a simple and straightforward measure at the government’s disposal which would make it that much easier for community pharmacists across Australia now, and in the future, to better support our patients,” said Mr Tambassis.