Doctors are dismayed that the 7CPA has not included suggestions such as 60-day dispensing, accusing the “pharmacy lobby” of putting profits before patients
Even before details of the Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement, signed last Thursday night in Canberra, have been released spokespeople for the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and others are disappointed in its contents.
Speaking to newsGP’s Doug Hendrie, RACGP president Dr Harry Nespolon said it was “disappointing” that the Government had not implemented double dispensing, as it had been hinting on numerous occasions before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Last year we called for the doubling of the dispensing limit to 60 days for many of the most common medications on which Australians rely,” Dr Nespolon told newsGP.
“We regret that the Government has chosen not to include extended dispensing in the new Community Pharmacy Agreement.
“Patients should not be treated as customers and foot traffic is not the basis of good health policy.”
Last week the AJP revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic played a key role in the Morrison Government’s change of heart on 60-day dispensing.
“It was panic stations in early March,” Pharmacy Guild national president George Tambassis told reporters on Friday.
“It was obvious that if anyone in the pharmacy community or the medical community either prescribed or dispensed larger quantities than 30 days, we’d have a serious problem in this country.”
He said that countries which had already implemented more than 30 days’ supply, such as New Zealand and Canada, “went back to 30 days” when the pandemic hit.
Health policy analyst and consultant Jennifer Doggett, Chair of the Australian Healthcare Reform Alliance and an editor of Croakey, told newsGP that doctors and consumers still want 60-day dispensing.
“If the doctor is okay with 60- or even 90-day prescriptions, they should be allowed,” she said.
“Why do you want older, sick people to stand and wait with other older, sick people during a pandemic?”
Ms Doggett had previously penned a piece for Inside Story, Wrong Medicine, which in mid-May 2020 was highly critical of the status quo.
“Mr Hunt is on the brink of signing another CPA with the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, which represents pharmacy owners, without having signalled any basic change in approach,” she wrote on May 18.
“Unless he significantly revises the terms of the CPA he will be committing the government to another five years of restricted competition and stifled innovation after the current agreement expires on 30 June.”
As noted by newsGP, Ms Doggett posted a long thread on Twitter last week in which she outlined “widespread criticisms of the Pharmacy Guild Agreements repeatedly ignored by g’ments (on both sides) – to remind people why this model has been found to be fundamentally flawed by multiple inquiries and reviews”.
A thread summarising widespread criticisms of the Pharmacy Guild Agreements repeatedly ignored by g'meats (on both sides) – to remind people why this model has been found to be fundamentally flawed by multiple inquiries and reviews. #auspol #health #pharmacy
— Jennifer Doggett (@JenniferDoggett) June 12, 2020
She told newsGP that the “guts of the agreement” centred around “the anti-competitive restrictions and governance and accountability issues”.
“Pharmacies are a crucial service and Government has a crucial role in funding them, but it shouldn’t be tied up with the business interests of owners. If public money is invested, it should be in the accepted standards of accountability and transparency, so we know if we are getting value for money.
“This agreement uses those nice-sounding words like ‘sustainability’, ‘accessibility’ and ‘continuity’ to hide the fact that it’s a business sector subsidy for an interest group. But it’s all tied up in health terms, so people are scared to scrutinise it too much.
“It’s a smokescreen to an industry group that is a very powerful lobby group.”