King Review option treats pharmacy like ‘utility company’

Several options in the King Review Interim Report, if ever implemented, could put community pharmacy at risk, says the Guild

The Guild says that from the time of the Review’s establishment under the former Health Minister, it has stressed that it should build upon, rather than dismantle, “the best system of community pharmacy in the world”.

It warns that a number of options in the Interim Report lack an evidence base, and have done little to allay the Guild’s concerns:

  • Requiring pharmacies to provide detailed regulatory accounts to the Federal Government has no legal basis and would be an unprecedented regulatory impost on 5,600 small businesses, the Guild says.
  • Calculating dispensing remuneration on the basis of an efficient cost-per-unit of production treats a vital patient health service delivered by highly trained health professionals like a utility company transmitting electricity, gas or telecoms, it says.
  • Turning the medicines supply chain on its head by giving individual medicine companies responsibility for guaranteeing timely PBS access for patients would be a leap into the unknown—potentially adding significant transaction costs for community pharmacies, says the Guild.
  • Breaking up the Community Pharmacy Agreement into pieces would run contrary to a more integrated approach to primary care, while including the Consumers Health Forum in future agreements makes no sense and was called for only by the CHF itself, it says.
  • Generic medicine tendering with a capped number of generics would exacerbate medicine shortages and be a retrograde step for our pharmaceutical industry, says the Guild.

While the Panel’s decision not to proceed with any recommendations to replace the location rules (in light of the Pharmacy Compact) is reassuring, the Interim Report still contains conceptual approaches to the location rules that would undermine Australia’s National Medicines Policy and encourage pharmacies to cluster in affluent suburbs, the Guild warns.

This would come at the expense of patient access in outer metropolitan and rural areas.

“Australia’s 5,600 community pharmacies, their 50,000 hard-working staff and millions of loyal patients need certainty and security about their ability to deliver and receive the highest quality health care,” says National President of the Pharmacy Guild, George Tambassis.

“This Review should be enhancing rather than threatening one of the most strongly supported parts of Australia’s health system.”

The Guild says it notes that Health Minister Hunt committed in the recent Pharmacy Compact to work with the it to ensure that the Government’s response to the Review maintains the community pharmacy model and ensures the future viability of community pharmacies.

The Guild also says it welcomes several options in the Interim Report which are “worthy of further consideration”. Some reflect the Guild’s submission to the Review.

These include:

  • Abolition of the optional discount of up to $1 of the patient co-payment.
  • Electronic safety net management.
  • Electronic prescriptions to be integrated with medicine records as the legal record.
  • Better managing medicine risks for patients upon discharge from hospital.
  • Remuneration for same services should be the same for all health professionals.
  • Price caps to limit the cash flow impact of high cost medicines.

“The Guild will continue to represent the interests of community pharmacy constructively to the Review ahead of its final report, in the hope that it sees the benefit of focusing on practical solutions that address real issues and add value to one of the best functioning and most strongly supported parts of our health system,” Mr Tambassis says.

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