‘Jobs will be lost.’

Pharmacy group estimates average loss of $85k in gross profit per pharmacy if 60-day dispensing proposal goes forward

With the 60-day dispensing proposal still on the table, the Rural Pharmacy Network Australia (RPNA) has warned that the effects on the pharmacy industry will be “catastrophic” should it come to pass.

Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed in recent months that PBAC recommendations to increase the prescription lengths of certain medicines from one to two months were still under consideration.

The proposal was “under careful review” by the Federal Government, Minister Hunt said on national television in September.

Fred Hellqvist, Chair of the RPNA, says: “There is no doubt that double dispensing, introduced in isolation, would have a devastating impact on rural communities.

“The effects will be catastrophic,” he says.

RPNA estimates the impact of this policy will be an average loss of $85k in gross profit per pharmacy, and it will also result in closures, increased patient costs for medications and pharmacy services, and reduced services due to reduced staff or reduced hours to compensate for the losses.

“Jobs will be lost especially amongst support staff like assistants and technicians. They will be collateral damage,” says the organisation.

It warns that non-concessional patients can expect an increase in medication prices, and argues that the proposal will push many scripts currently under the general patient co-payment above the general benefit price – therefore attracting a benefit and fee and costing the government more in the long run.

“Access to pharmacists will be vastly reduced under this proposal,” says RPNA.

“These losses will be particularly detrimental in rural communities where medical services are already under strain and patients are relying heavily on their local pharmacy for healthcare advice and triaging.

“In the worst case, some towns could lose their pharmacy altogether.”

However doctor and consumer groups such as the RACGP, AMA and the Consumers Health Forum (CHF) have argued that enabling patients to collect two months of scripts in a single visit to a pharmacy would be practical and convenient for patients.

AMA president, Dr Tony Bartone, said in a radio interview in September: “Where the patient is stable and having ongoing care delivered under the auspices of a treating family medical practitioner, they should be allowed to have longer term quantities prescribed, to ensure that they don’t have to go back and pay an extra dispensing fee, an extra component for their care, if it’s obviously working and being managed appropriately.

“The PBAC has made the recommendations. And we support the independent umpire,” Dr Bartone said.

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