The Greens are taking a plan to the 2019 election to fund dispensing fees for patients using the methadone program
The party’s leader, Senator Richard Di Natale, also told the audience of pharmacists, health stakeholders and politicians at the Pharmacy Guild Parliamentary Dinner that pharmacists could work to a wider scope than they currently do.
Pharmacists are on the front line when it comes to harm minimisation, and substance abuse issues related to prescription opioids, he said.
“I know the Guild is firmly committed to reducing the social and economic costs of drug abuse here in Australia,” Senator Di Natale said.
“Many of you work very hard through your methadone program. I know that that places a significant burden on many of your practices, and I know that for many of you, managing payments – this is a highly marginalised community, a community that often is unable to pay the methadone dispensing fee.
“And that’s why at this election we’re taking a fully costed plan, to fund dispensing fees for individuals who have methadone dispensed at the pharmacy.
“It will mean that people who need access to these therapies can get them consistently, without the stress of knowing whether they can afford it, and it means it’s going to take the pressure off you, and your businesses, your staff, to leave the focus on what you do best and that’s providing care for the patient.”
Senator Di Natale, a former drug and alcohol practitioner, said that it was “dispiriting” to see Australia lagging behind other jurisdictions such as the US, Canada and New Zealand when it comes to harm minimisation.
“It’s about having regulated, safe environments where people will make choices and our job is to make it as safe as possible if they’re going to continue to make those choices.”
He also told the audience that pharmacists were underutilised in the health landscape and could work to a considerably wider scope than they currently do.
“If we’re going to do that, we need to do it in a way where we have transparent funding mechanisms so that you can deliver the programs that we know will deliver for patients,” he said.
“That’s why [I’ve] been a long advocate for ensuring that the way we fund community pharmacy is done in a way where we can expand the scope of the work that you do, but very clear about what programs we’re funding and how we’re funding them.”