‘Money for nothing’ claims inaccurate

Pharmacy owners have been accused of gaining a $43,000 boost for ‘nothing’

In the latest article on the pharmacy sector from News Corp national health reporter Sue Dunlevy, pharmacists were targeted as the biggest individual winners from this year’s Budget, handed down on Tuesday.

“The nation’s 4900 pharmacy owners will share in a $200 million government handout because they did not sell as many prescriptions as they hoped,” Ms Dunlevy wrote in a piece titled, “Budget 2017: Pharmacy owners score $43,000 boost for essentially doing nothing”.

“Yes, that’s right, instead of banking savings because fewer people used prescription medicines the government is paying chemists for 6.5 million scripts they did not dispense,” she wrote.

“If that money had instead been spent on health care it could have funded 10,000 knee replacements or over 9000 hip replacements.”

Only last week Ms Dunlevy wrote an article discussing “greedy chemists” who were not passing on the $1 copayment discount. A “willingness to review” this copayment was welcomed by the Guild after the Budget was handed down.

Guild executive director David Quilty has again written to News Corp media to point out the error in the latest article.

“The claim by Sue Dunlevy that pharmacists received funding in the Federal Budget for ‘doing nothing’ is wrong,” he wrote.  

“On the contrary, the funding commitments to which Ms Dunlevy refers are for delivering patient services and to partner with the Government to reduce patient and taxpayer costs by encouraging the greater uptake of generic medicines. 

“These facts are clearly outlined in Minister Hunt’s compact with the Pharmacy Guild.”

In 2015-6, total script volumes were 2.14% lower than forecast in the 6CPA, which will now be paid over the remaining life of the 6CPA through an increase to the AHI fee.

The Guild has been seeking a solution to the risk share issue for some time.

In November last year Mr Quilty wrote in Forefront that the shortfall was delivering the Government a saving in excess of $400 million that was not anticipated at the time of the Agreement.

“For pharmacies, the shortfall equates to a $15,000 reduction in remuneration for the average pharmacy dispensing 55,000 scripts a year, at a time when the annualised adverse impact of the Government’s PBS reforms is an estimated $42,000 per pharmacy.

“For pharmacies, this reimbursement is urgent,” he wrote.

“They have borrowed, invested and incurred the fixed costs to fulfil their dispensing related responsibilities under the Agreement. 

“Many are struggling to maintain their profitability as a result of the impact of the Government’s PBS reforms and their ability to make the transition to becoming broader primary health care providers will be put at risk if it is not paid.

“More importantly, this risk share arrangement goes to the crux of why the Federal Government and community pharmacies enter into agreements in the first place. 

“It is the means by which the core commitments in the Agreement are delivered in full, but not exceeded, to the benefit of both parties.”

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  1. Toby

    So why was not David Quilty on national TV countering this? Writing to NewsCorp media counts for nothing – they will either not publish the response, or give it no profile at all (as always) The Guild needs to get more media-savvy – or it will go from being a failing organisation as it currently is, to a failed organisation. And it will take pharmacy with it. I, for one, have NEVER seen someone from the Guild on prime-time TV, pointing out that the government has gutted the PBS, and how the government has done that by reducing mark-ups to almost nothing. That has NEVER been given prime-time profile in the media. Shame, Guild, shame.

    • Jarrod McMaugh

      Do you think that prime time TV is a forum that you can just ring up and say “hey, I’ve got an opinion you need to run a story on…..”

      • Pete

        You don’t feed trolls

        • Willy the chemist

          Well at least Toby is passionate about pharmacy..even if his suggestion about getting on prime time Media is a little simplistic. Sometimes we do have to try to do things differently and no matter how simplistic, it will never be possible if we don’t try. Sue Dunlevy is usually so misleading and inaccurate, maybe it is time to expose her. She has an agenda and it isn’t pharmacy.
          As to the Guild failing, well, that’s simply inaccurate. Without the Guild, we would all be down to our undergarments facing the south arctic winds. So to all those freeloaders, think and think harder. We are all fighting for our survival and you are just riding on our coattails.

      • Andrew

        For years the AMA has been the peanut gallery on anything even slightly related to health. They manage pretty effectively.

        • Jarrod McMaugh

          No, they don’t.

          The AMA opposes almost every single decision in health, yet the decision goes ahead.

          Empty rhetoric is worse than smothering a story by denying it oxygen

          • Andrew

            I wasn’t talking about advocacy, more around comment and the “here’s some AMA talking head with health community perspective”

            The particular instance I was thinking about was some months ago on Neil Mitchell show he was discussing some particular medication, said they were seeking advice or clarification on some point. Shortly later he interviewed some bloke from the AMA on the topic – which suggests to me that for a drug related question the show’s producer’s first thought was to contact the AMA, rather than the PSA or the PGA.

            When comment on a pharmacy or medication related topic is required I’d hope the public and media would have an awareness of the pharmacy peak-bodies and approach them, rather than every single health story having a $0.02 input from the AMA because that’s who first comes to mind.

          • Jarrod McMaugh

            3AW has a pharmacist amongst their stable of talking heads…. and yet they don’t use him.

            If you can’t get a media outlet to use their own resources appropriately, how do you address that issue?

            My point is, it’s not so simple, and definitely not being missed due to lack of effort from PSA or Guild.

          • Charlotte Hutchesson

            It is very frustrating though. Just this minute on Adelaide talkback (5AA), a listener rang up quoting Sue Dunlevy’s latest article, and the presenter said they will organise to speak to Stephen Duckett tomorrow. Why not the Pharmacy Guild?

          • Andrew

            Thanks Charlotte, that’s the exact point I was inarticulately trying to make.

            Pharmacy receives a payout from taxpayers that averages $42k per pharmacy because they didn’t receive enough business – some of us understand the context and reason for the payment with the complexities of the 6CPA and whetever, but how is Joe Public expected to understand it as anything other than rent-seeking by what they perceive to be an already privileged group of professionals?

            Maybe better public understanding of what’s going on would better our lot? That comes down to communication and at the moment those who provide comment are generally anti-pharmacy,

    • Mimimomo

      Dear Guild or any pharmacy organisation, we need damage control. This kind of news should not been published in the first place. The writer should be taken to court if the news they wrote is not true. They need to get the fact right before they write what they want. Is bad for our profession. Is already hard for pharmacy owner!! How much damage does this Journalist want to do to PHARMACIST!! Any sort of pharmacy related news should be screen before it is published. Media is a very powerful tools and if it is not control we will be doom. More and more news like this pharmacy as a business had no future.

      • Jarrod McMaugh

        There aren’t any screens to prevent any news being written. Freedom of the press means freedom to print whatever they want, for better or worse.

    • Tim Hewitt

      the others are right.. The Guild is VERY media savvy and has a policy/strategy of NOT giving Dunlevy and her ilk any more oxygen than they already have.. the Guild HAS responded on TV in the past and it hasnt always ended well.. so by NOT playing the game, not engaging with Dunlevy etc, the story dies (and , yes it will rise again, but after about 20 years its getting a bit tedious.. ) one thing I’ll say for Sue, she is peristent, or maybe just cant think of anything else to write about.. shes a one story journo!
      So, keep the fire in your belly, write a letter to the editor yourself,. but remember the Guild plays the long game.. engages with those who count, ie the Government, and our customers.. and doesnt waste time or money on arguing with not vacuous journos with an axe to grind..

    • Anthony Tassone

      The reason why the Guild was not countering this story on national TV was simply because News Corp was the only publication to run it. There was no follow up by other media agencies or forms of media that I am aware of.
      As others have indicated in this thread, simply disagreeing with something in one form of media (e.g. print in this case) doesn’t necessarily give a platform for TV coverage if the interest isn’t there from the networks to cover it.
      The Guild has daily news monitoring surveillance of various forms of media including; radio, print, TV, social media around matters relevant to pharmacy and are pro-active in responding to various issues, on many occasions I have personally been the representative of the Guild.
      There are examples of recent media activities where the Guild has engaged experts to help launch positive news stories such as pharmacist immunisation which received national coverage across various forms of media from mid to late March.
      Toby, I sense and understand your frustration around these repeated negative stories from this particular journalist.
      The Guild reached a landmark compact with the Federal Government to help resolve “an identified shortfall in the volume of dispensed medicines against forecasts in the first year of operation of the 6CPA.”

      The landmark compact that has been referred to in this amongst other stories covering the budget is avaialble via the below:


      The big picture for the Guild is achieving these types of outcomes on behalf of members and the industry and if some in the press take a negative slant – that is their prerogative that the Guild will respond to but will be unwavering in advocacy and representations to key stakeholders.

      Anthony Tassone
      President, Pharmacy Guild of Australia (Victoria Branch)

  2. Philip Smith

    Any reason if she is lying (constantly) why there has not been a defamation case?

    Conspiracy theories anyone?

    • Jarrod McMaugh

      Her articles are published as opinion pieces. You can complain about them but there isn’t the ability to effectively bring a defamation case.

      One pharmacist who’s shopfront was used in a story about how we’re all multi-millionaires squeezing the government for money won some action recently, but I believe it was just a retraction…. I could be wrong on the specifics.

    • Andrew

      My theory is that it’s all to do with News Corpse advertising revenue.

      The AU pharmacy sector as it stands is a collection of smaller operators that do not have the purchasing power to run large-scale advertising in the Murdoch (or any other) press. Disrupt the sector with clickbait and sensationalist stories with the ultimate aim of breaking up the status quo and promoting market consolidation (already happening).

      The larger and consolidated businesses/groups have an advertising budget (as opposed to the sole operator) and News would like to have that money please. Sue’s just doing her job,

      • Jarrod McMaugh

        Ha, I only just realised what you did there. Nice play on words…

  3. Fady Naguib

    pharmacists should not be targeted because they try to keep their business viable , viability of pharmacy should be concern of the whole community especially small rural pharmacies

  4. David Lund

    I’m sick of our industry getting the raw end of the stick all of the time. Nice to have a little job security in getting rid of the sunset clause with location rules for now. The public should be happy that PBS expenditure is down, and they are able to access drugs that were once out of reach due to hits all Owners have taken over the last 10 years or so.

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