Extended prescribing impasse


Support is growing for easier access for birth control pills. Image Point Fr/Shutterstock.com
Support is growing for easier access for birth control pills. Image Point Fr/Shutterstock.com

Mixed messages from the Department of Health over two-month prescriptions, as new documents say pharmacist mark-ups will impact consumer and taxpayer savings

New Department of Health documents reveal that two-month prescriptions are still being considered by the Federal Government 

In response to a Senate Estimates question on notice from Senator Stirling Griff (Centre Alliance, SA), the Department said the government will “seriously consider” the proposals made by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee in 2018 to allow doctors to prescribe larger quantities of certain medicines for patients with chronic stable conditions.  

“This proposal is complex,” said the Department response, published on 12 December. “The Government will carefully consider the proposal and is not proposing to change the quantities for PBS medicines at this stage. The proposal would be the subject of extensive consultation with consumers, the medical community and including the pharmacy sector”.

The Department response said that a number of variables would affect its calculations of the savings to consumers and taxpayers from the proposal, which it noted again was “still subject to consultation, so this is not currently clear [the number of medicines involved]”

These factors would include: “the prices of those medicines, respective pharmacies’ discretionary mark-ups and discounts, whether prescribers consider that individual patients’ clinical conditions were suitable for two months’ supply for those medicines, and whether community pharmacies respond by increasing discretionary markups or reducing their uptake of the optional $1 discount initiative”.

It is understood that the extended prescribing proposals are a major stumbling block in the ongoing Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement negotiations between the Federal government and the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.

A list of 143 medicines were recommended by PBAC for expanded dispensing.  

The department also dismissed another question from Senator Griff asking whether Health Minister Greg Hunt had instructed the Chief Medical Officer to examine a “proposal for supervised prescribing by pharmacists.”

“The Chief Medical Officer has not been instructed to examine a proposal for ‘supervised prescribing’ by pharmacists,” the response stated.

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