Help us help: Quilty

The shortcomings of provisions for emergency medicines access have been highlighted by the Guild’s national executive director following disasters in Tasmania and Queensland

The recent bushfires in Tasmania and other states, and the Townsville flood, “have reminded us all of the importance of preparation and dealing with the aftermath of such events,” writes David Quilty in this week’s edition of Guild newsletter Forefront.

“One area of concern for many health professionals at such times is the availability of prescribed medicines for patients when their paper prescription is lost or destroyed, they have no identification and sometimes no money to pay for medicines, and in some cases their local pharmacy has been destroyed or closed because of damage,” Mr Quilty writes.

“Pharmacists play a critical role in ensuring continuity of supply of medicines during such times.

“Current arrangements for the supply of medicines by a pharmacist in an emergency and in the absence of a valid prescription allow supply of a very limited amount of medicine (generally only three days’ worth) to a patient as a private (non-PBS) supply.

“There are also limited medicines that can be supplied under Continued Dispensing arrangements as a PBS supply, provided the patient meets all criteria.

“The Guild believes the current arrangements in all jurisdictions are inadequate to efficiently support patients in the event of a catastrophe such as fire, flood or cyclone when people can be displaced, essential medical services can be disrupted and people are at their most vulnerable.”

Mr Quilty writes that continued supply of long-term medicines for chronic conditions is also a problem for many patients.

“Prescriptions are often not in sync, forcing patients to see a prescriber for the sole reason of obtaining a prescription.

“There is potential for poor patient health outcomes if these medicines are stopped suddenly and provision of emergency supply medicines is often not adequate for these patients to keep taking their medicine in an optimal manner.”

He highlights the Guild’s proposal to government to request changes to better support access to essential medicines in emergencies.

“The development of a medication continuum via a prescription renewal service, where a patient has a Community Based Medication Chart that is valid as a prescription, has also been proposed as a solution for prescription consistency in patients on long term medicines.

“The Guild believes the following arrangements should be implemented as soon as possible:

“An expansion of Emergency Supply provisions in all States and Territories to enable the supply of the smallest available manufacturer pack by a pharmacist in the absence of a prescription when urgent supply is warranted.

“An expansion of Continued Dispensing to include a much expanded range of pharmaceutical benefits.

“Prescription Renewal arrangements at State, Territory and Commonwealth level for pharmacists to work in collaboration with prescribers and patients to improve the efficiency of prescribing and dispensing, enhance medicine adherence and increase patient monitoring through the use of a Community-Based Medication Chart (CBMC).”

Mr Quilty’s words echo those of Pharmacy Guild Tasmanian branch president John Dowling, who told the AJP during the Tasmanian bushfires last month that “maintaining the supply chain is vital to keep the community going”.

The fires were “one of those instances where we think a bit more leeway would allow pharmacists to better help their communities,” he said at the time.

“That they want to not break the law to help people take their medication correctly is quite sensible.”

The PSA welcomed Mr Quilty’s comments.

“The suggestions by the Pharmacy Guild are very sensible and would go a long way to ensuring appropriate supply in an emergency and also where it is not practicable to see a doctor,” said national PSA president Dr Chris Freeman.

“We must have better arrangements for medicines supply in emergency situations and we know the requirements surrounding emergency supplies in each of the states are often an impediment to the vital continuation of medicines in these disaster situations.”

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