‘Greater transparency for consumers’ on drug pricing

Pharmacy Guild NSW president David Heffernan, Health Minister Greg Hunt, Guild national president George Tambassis, Blooms pharmacy Karabar owner Mohammad Hasan, Guild executive director Suzanne Greenwood
Pharmacy Guild NSW president David Heffernan, Health Minister Greg Hunt, Guild national president George Tambassis, Blooms pharmacy Karabar owner Mohammad Hasan, Guild executive director Suzanne Greenwood

The controversial optional $1 discount is set to stay, as more details of the newly signed 7CPA begin to emerge

Health Minister Greg Hunt has lauded the signing of the Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement on Thursday night in Canberra, while the PSA says it fought “incredibly hard” to represent pharmacists.

Mr Hunt told reporters that there will be “greater transparency for consumers on the cost of their medicines”.

“The Government will reduce the level of discretionary fees that can to be charged on medicines priced below the general patient co-payment,” Mr Hunt said.

“Consumers will continue to have access to cheaper medicines through the continuation of the optional $1 discount on PBS co-payments.”

Mr Hunt said that the “landmark” Agreement will have medicine safety as a key focus.

The Government will increase its investment in medication management services and programs to $1.2 billion over its five-year life, “which is an additional $100 million investment compared to actual expenditure in the Sixth Community Pharmacy Agreement,” he said.

“Elderly Australians, people with chronic conditions and Australians on concession cards will benefit from this increased investment through simplified and improved Community Pharmacy medication management and adherence programs, such as dose administration aids and medicine checks.

 “There will also be greater support for regional, rural and remote pharmacies to deliver community pharmacy services with reforms to the Rural Pharmacy Maintenance Allowance to adopt the Modified Monash Model for rural classification.”

Mr Hunt said the Morrison Government will also implement reforms improving medicines access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by expanding eligibility for the Closing the Gap PBS co-payment measure.

“This program provides free or lower cost medicines to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who have, or at risk of, chronic disease.

“Our Government will also work to support the adoption of a nationally consistent approach to vaccinations available through community pharmacies.”

Meanwhile the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, which is a signatory to the Community Pharmacy Agreement for the first time, welcomed the signing, saying the 7CPA will deliver increased investment where it is needed most, including for people living in rural, regional and remote areas, and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

PSA said it was important that the recent changes to medicines management programs to enable a cycle of care approach, including patient follow-up, will be maintained to support quality and safe use of medicines, particularly for older Australians.

A/Prof Freeman said the agreement provided certainty around medication management programs which would enable pharmacists to help solve the issue of medication-related harm in Australia, that costs the economy $1.4 billion annually.

“This agreement is an increase of $100 million on expenditure for professional programs under the previous agreement,” he said.

“PSA fought incredibly hard to represent pharmacists in this agreement. This was a particularly difficult agreement to negotiate, given the likely impacts resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

“This is a forward-looking agreement, flexible in its approach. It provides an opportunity for the implementation of significant policy reforms, particularly in the areas of aged care and mental health that will have a direct impact on patient health outcomes.

“This agreement also supports the uptake of electronic prescribing to enable safer and more efficient use and supply of medicines by pharmacists while supporting patient choice and ensuring their privacy is maintained.”

PSA also says that its status as a signatory to the 7CPA will enable it to “shape professional practice standards and raise the bar of professional pharmacist practice in Australia,” says A/Prof Freeman.

“PSA’s role in negotiations will achieve genuine and positive outcomes over the term of the agreement, support the vital role of pharmacists in primary care and enable them to practice to full scope, delivering better health outcomes for their patients.

Trent Twomey, Queensland branch president of the Pharmacy Guild, chief negotiator for the Agreement and Chair of the Guild’s Pharmacy Viability Committee, said in a statement to Queensland members that the COVID-19 pandemic and disastrous 2019/2020 bushfire season have shown the importance of the community pharmacy network, and its resilience under extreme conditions.

“The 6CPA paved way for a lot of positive reform,” he said. “The next five years is critical to continue laying the foundation for change needed to support further integration of community pharmacy into primary healthcare.

“Over the five years of the 6CPA, professional pharmacy programs received $1.26 billion in funding. It’s a crucial component and win for community pharmacies that professional program funding will continue so we can ensure community pharmacists practice to their full scope.

“In the 6CPA’s five-year lifetime, community pharmacies dispensed well over a billion prescriptions safely and effectively to Australian primary healthcare patients, many at a subsidised price.

“I look forward to sharing further positive 7CPA outcomes for Queensland community pharmacies in the coming months.”

The 7CPA is due to come into effect on 1 July 2020.

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