The Pharmacy Guild has condemned a News Corp article which has claimed that “greedy chemists” are failing to pass on the discount on prescription copayments of up to $1
“You should be paying $1 less every time you get a prescription filled,” wrote News journalist Sue Dunlevy.
“But greedy chemists are denying cash-strapped pensioners, chronically ill patients and families the government’s dollar discount on prescription medicines.”
Dunlevy writes that the Federal Government is “preparing to reward pharmacists in next week’s May budget with extra funding to compensate them for falling prescription volume”.
“It comes as a new business analysis reveals government rules protecting the pharmacy industry monopoly are undermining competition and costing the sick money.”
She cites Health Department figures which show that the proportion of scripts dispensed with a discount has fallen to 28% – down from 30% in January 2016 when the discount was first permitted.
The article quotes Consumers’ Health Forum head Leanne Wells, who said that the fact that the discount was being offered in a minority of instances “shows a lack of vigorous competition between pharmacies”.
Pharmacy Guild Executive Director David Quilty has written a Letter to the Editor of News Corp publications criticising the article.
“Sue Dunlevy’s claim that ‘greedy chemists’ are making patients pay more by denying them an optional $1 discount on their medicines is wrong,” he writes.
“On the contrary, pharmacies are working in partnership with the Federal Government to deliver very large medicine price reductions of 50% or more through PBS reforms.
“The low take-up of the option $1 discount simply reflects the fact that the sickest patients understand there is no net benefit for them as it means they take longer to reach their PBS Safety Net.”
Former Health Minister Sussan Ley was buoyant about the $1 copayment discount when it was first to be introduced, telling the 2015 Guild Parliamentary Dinner that “I am of the view that price competition will drive value for the consumer… This is in line with other parts of the health sector which discount patient contributions as a matter of course.”
The Guild has consistently opposed the discount.
It’s not the first time the Guild has slammed an article by Ms Dunlevy.
In March 2015 an article titled, “How a pharmacy monopoly pushes up your medicine price and makes pharmacies million dollar businesses” also drew significant criticism for its claims that “pharmacists earn $650,000 a year from dispensing medicines under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme”.
And in February 2016, Guild president George Tambassis responded to another article about the $1 discount, in which it was claimed the Guild was making misleading statements.
At the time he said that “It would be misleading not to tell patients about the impact of the discount on their access to the Safety Net.”