Pharmacies warned on ‘cowboy’ behaviour

Pharmacists must adhere to guidelines on the level of the PBS co-pay discount they offer or risk fines, Pharmacy Guild leaders warn.

In the latest NSW Guild Bulletin, acting state Guild President Mark Douglass says they have received ”a number of worrying member communications that indicate a small number of pharmacists appear to have forgotten their professional obligations…”

Mr Douglass went on to say that it was “timely” to remind pharmacy owners that penalties exist for offenses such as offering patients more than a $1 PBS Co-pay discount.

“Penalties exist within the National Health Act for ‘cowboy’ behaviour” he said. “Legislation was altered in the PBS sustainability package to accommodate the allowable maximum one dollar discountable co-payment. No greater or other discount is legal.”

“High-priced PBS items will have tracking codes attached and the PBS Compliance Division is asking for whistle blowers to report rorting or inappropriate behaviour in the Medicare space”.

Penalties of $1000 exist in the National Health Act 1953 for giving, promising for offering a gift, rebate or reward ”as an inducement to a person to present, or in consideration of a person’s presenting, a prescription for the supply of a pharmaceutical benefit.”

In addition, there were fines of $2000 or 12 months imprisonment, or both, for supplying “anything other than the pharmaceutical benefit that is directed to be supplied”.

Mr Douglass also warned against breaches of guidelines allowing pharmacists it administer influenza vaccines. He said failures to understand the legislative framework were “causing some concerns”.

“A pharmacist must have undertaken accredited vaccination training before being legally entitled to administer the ‘flu vaccine, and in NSW the pharmacy must have a suitable vaccination room….,” he said.

“Administering the influenza vaccine is the most significant change in a pharmacists role for years and is the forerunner of much more change and increased responsibility in primary health care. Let’s not wreck the momentum and appetite for change with unthinking or ill-considered behaviour.”

A spokesperson said the Guild’s national office backed the warnings, and reiterated the Guild’s overall opposition to the co-pay discount.


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  1. Eddie

    Are doctors liable for similar penalties for prescribing the wrong medication? eg the 12 months in jail? I bet they aren’t.

    • Kathryn

      They are likewise liable for MBS fraud as pharmacists are for PBS fraud

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