Large minority not supplying Hep C drugs: poll results

Over a fifth of respondents are not providing the new Hepatitis C treatments to patients, an AJP survey has found.

AJP ran a poll to examine to what extent the cash flow issues around the medicines were affecting pharmacies’ decisions to supply patients with the drugs, and found that 22% were not providing them at all.

While most pharmacies – 59% of respondents – were filling all scripts for patients who present with them, another 7% said that while they were currently filling the scripts, they were considering changing doing so for economic reasons.

Another 8% were only filling scripts for a limited number of patients, again for economic reasons.

Consultant pharmacist Debbie Rigby says that expensive medicines will not stop at just Hepatitis C treatments.

“There will be more and more high-cost drugs coming onto the PBS in the future, and community pharmacies do have a responsibility to ensure patients have access to these drugs,” says Rigby, who with Professor Lisa Nissen and Chris Campbell developed the CPD accredited education package on the subject designed specifically for community pharmacy. Rigby is also on the advisory board for AbbVie, which supplies Viekira Pak.

She pointed out that AbbVie is providing registered pharmacies – known as AbbVie Network Pharmacies – with extended payment terms of up to 120-days, dependent on wholesaler.

“Pharmacies should be providing these drugs, which are lifesaving to patients with Hepatitis C, because our responsibility is always to care for our patients,” Rigby told the AJP.

“So whilst I can appreciate some of the cash flow problems that have occurred, I don’t think we can pick and choose which drugs we will dispense to patients.”

She highlighted the requirement for pharmacies which do not supply the medicines to advise patients of their options for accessing the drugs.

“It’s like with EC or even the contraceptive pill when there’s a few pharmacies who say they have their own moral issues – the guidelines say that you have to ensure that the patient  has access to the drugs, by helping the patient identify a pharmacy that will dispense them.”

Earlier in the year Guild executive director David Quilty used his column in Forefront to call for the cash flow problems around Hepatitis C medicines to be addressed.

“The Guild has warmly welcomed these listings and congratulated the Federal Government for making these medicines available through the PBS,” Quilty wrote at the time.

“However, they are very expensive.  The price to pharmacy for each monthly dose of Harvoni is $22,136.61 + GST and for Sovaldi is $19,367.69 + GST.

“Never before has the pharmacy supply chain faced the prospect of dealing with such very expensive medicines at such high levels of patient demand.”

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