Make emergency supply permanent: Tambassis

George Tambassis has called for a quick conclusion to 7CPA negotiations, extension of emergency supply provisions and therapeutic substitution powers

The Pharmacy Guild’s national president has spoken out about the “immense” pressure on pharmacists and staff thanks to the COVID-19 crisis, saying the Guild is trying to help Australians stay calm.

In a message to members, Mr Tambassis wrote that he wants to assure them that the Guild is doing its best to make governments and health authorities aware of the strain on the pharmacy network.

“At this extremely challenging time, our healthcare system relies on community pharmacies staying open, and being up-to-date on the best way to respond for our patients,” Mr Tambassis wrote.

“A priority is also the safety and well-being of our staff – keeping them informed of the risks and the best protocols to address them. Their safety is paramount.

He also touched on the strain on supply lines, “as panic buying and consumer anxieties have raised the issue of stockpiling and caused wholesalers to consider measures to cap orders and extend delivery waiting times”.

Patient stockpiling behaviour has emerged as a significant problem stemming from concerns about the coronavirus, with 82% of pharmacist respondents to AJP’s poll on the matter saying that patients were asking for more than one month’s worth of scripts to be dispensed at a time.

This week the National Pharmaceutical Services Association, representing the wholesalers, issued a statement saying that measures have been put into place to limit order quantities and ensure equitable access to medicines for all Australians. No pharmacy brand, organisation or order was being prioritised, it said.

Mr Tambassis said the Guild is “working directly with the wholesalers, the Therapeutic Goods Administration and all relevant stakeholders to develop responses to supply problems as they arise”.

“I have also been in the mainstream media this week trying to be a voice of calm for consumers who are very anxious about medicine supplies,” he said.

“And may I say I fully endorse the sentiment expressed by the Prime Minister this morning when he said in relation to hoarding of retail items: ‘That is not who we are as a people. It is not necessary. It is not something that people should be doing’.”

The Guild is also in daily contact with comparable pharmacy organisations around the world “to try to glean the best responses to help our pharmacies, our patients, and to help keep Australia’s COVID-19 curve as flat as possible,” Mr Tambassis wrote.

Four priorities for the Guild at the moment include:

  • “Continued dispensing – we are urging the State and Federal Governments to extend the temporary expansion of emergency supply provisions that was introduced in some States and Territories during the bushfire crisis,” Mr Tambassis wrote. “This needs to be national, and permanent.”
  • “Therapeutic Substitution – in the event that certain medicines become short in supply in the coming weeks and months, pharmacists must be empowered to institute therapeutic substitution to allow continuity of therapy for patients with chronic conditions,” Mr Tambassis wrote. “We have put a proposal on this to the Government jointly with the PSA, and we are hopeful of progress very soon.”
  • “Reducing the risk of transmission – we are seeking a temporary suspension of the need for signing of receipt of PBS/RPBA scripts and NDSS items to reduce the risk posed by the sharing of pens in pharmacies.”
  • “7CPA finalisation – the last thing we need at this difficult time is ongoing uncertainty about the Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement,” Mr Tambassis said. “We are continuing to negotiate with the Government and we are urging a swift progression to an outcome that gives us the certainty we need to carry on at the pointy end of this public health emergency.”


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