While the second half of 2015 was positive for pharmacies, 2016 will be challenging with the further PBS reforms reducing wholesaler and generic trading terms, says Guild executive director David Quilty.
Quilty writes in this week’s edition of Forefront that pharmacies need to prepare for these further reforms, which include price reductions for combination medicines, the 5% price cut on brand medicines; and the exclusion of the originator from price disclosure calculations.
“Members should make use of the 6CPA Forecaster and the Guild is also committed to updating Script Map for the 6CPA,” he says.
“Two significant changes took effect on 1 January, namely the commencement of the optional co-payment discount up to $1 and the de-listing of certain medicines from the PBS that are available over-the-counter.”
Quilty reports that community pharmacies are applying the $1 discount selectively, with pharmacists speaking with customers about its costs and benefits.
“Many Concession Card patients who are likely to reach the Safety Net perceive the discount to be a Government budget cut that provides no net benefit to them,” he says.
“They are opting not to take the discount so their access to the PBS Safety Net is not delayed.
“Interestingly, pharmacies in banner groups with a policy of applying the discount are opting to apply this policy selectively. The Guild is aware that even Chemist Warehouse pharmacies are discouraging their Safety Net patients from taking the discount.”
Meanwhile, Quilty says that the de-listing of paracetamol osteo means patients with osteoarthritis are paying more for their first-line pain management.
“Delays in the supply of Osteomol, which continues to be PBS listed, mean some pharmacies are having difficulty supplying patients eligible for paracetamol osteo on the PBS.
“The Guild has asked the PBAC to review the paracetamol osteo de-listing decision. We are quietly confident this will happen, as patients are further impacted with their existing supplies running out and the cheap pre-1 January prices no longer available.
“The Government has allocated $15 million this financial year to the Pharmacy Trial Program, which is trialling patient services that are delivered through community pharmacies.”
But after seven months, no trials are underway or announced, Quilty says.
“The Guild is pushing for the decision-making processes to be expedited so patients can derive practical health benefits from trialling services for which there is an existing strong evidence base.
“We cannot allow this community pharmacy funding to be wasted on bureaucracy, red tape and theoretical research.
“The Guild continues to work constructively with the Government in other areas, including transitioning the NDSS to the pharmacy supply chain and payment arrangements for the Efficient Funding of Chemotherapy.
“On the NDSS, the goal is to bed down the payment, supply and administration in time to enable the new arrangements to commence from 1 July as stipulated in the 6CPA.
“On chemotherapy, it is clear that the proposal to make all EFC payments directly to compounders is unworkable. We are respectfully asking for an alternative approach that will ensure the Government’s transparency objective is still achieved.”
The Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation Review has also commenced. Quilty says the Guild is working with the Review Panel on the basis that they bring an open mind to their deliberations and will consider the issues on the merits.
“The Guild met the Panel before Christmas and continues to respond to requests for information and help organising meetings with stakeholders,” he writes.