SA moves on emergency meds access


Image courtesy QUT.

The South Australian Government has announced that it will improve medicines access for patients affected by bushfires, in a move welcomed by the Guild and PSA

State Minister for Health Stephen Wade said that the new regulations, under the Controlled Substances Act 1884, will mean that in the event of an emergency South Australian pharmacists will be able to provide their patients with medication without a script.

Currently the decision only applies to people affected by the Kangaroo Island bushfire and controlled drugs cannot be supplied under the provision.

“Natural disasters and other emergencies can have a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of communities and it is important that we act quickly to ease the strain where we can,” Minister Wade said.

“The bushfires impacting communities both here and interstate have highlighted the difficulties people can have to obtain prescription medication during emergencies.

“People who have had to evacuate have enough concerns without having to worry about destroyed prescriptions.

“These new regulations will allow pharmacists to fulfil their duty of care to patients in times of emergencies and also better support the health and wellbeing of their local communities.”

These new arrangements will allow the Minister to declare an emergency area and timeframe in which greater amounts of a prescription medicine can be legally dispensed without a script.

Under the previous legislation, pharmacists were only allowed to provide medication for up to three days without a prescription in an emergency situation, said Department for Health and Wellbeing’s Chief Public Health Officer, Associate Professor Nicola Spurrier.

“In an extended emergency situation, a few days’ supply of medication may not be enough to allow people to continue to take their medication,” A/Prof Spurrier said.

“While people can currently seek prescription medication from hospitals if necessary, this is not ideal in an emergency situation when the health system may already be under pressure.”

Under the legislation, a pharmacist must be satisfied that there is good reason for the person’s inability to produce a prescription for the drug, the person being supplied is under medical treatment with the drug and the continued sale or supply of that drug is essential to the health of that person.

Both the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia and the Pharmacy Guild of Australia welcomed the move.

The South Australian Branch President of the Pharmacy Guild, Nick Panayiaris, thanked the Government for the announcement which he said would help ensure continuity of care and access to important medicines during the Kangaroo Island bushfire emergency.

“This is a sensible measure during this very distressing time for patients impacted by the bushfire disaster on Kangaroo Island to help ensure they continue to have access to medicines; and recognises the expertise of pharmacists in determining where an emergency supply is appropriate,” Mr Panayiaris said.

The measure brings South Australia into line with Governments of NSW, Victoria and the ACT. Last Friday the Federal Government announced that PBS medicines dispensed under emergency provisions without a script will be eligible for the standard PBS subsidy.

“This is a great step towards permanently expanding and streamlining the capacity of pharmacists to assist patients with their prescription medicines during and after natural disasters,” Mr Panayiaris said.

While this decision only applies to the Kangaroo Island bushfire, the Guild says that it would welcome an expansion of the measure to include all South Australian communities where people are impacted or may be impacted in the future, during the current bushfire season.

Kingscote pharmacist Patrick Tiong, who supported people on Kangaroo Island after last week’s devastating fires welcomed the announcement.

“Last week when we supported people who had lost their homes, the evacuees as well as tourists and volunteers, the current regulations were far less flexible and it limited our ability to help those affected people,” Mr Tiong said.

“I hope this change will help South Australians who need to continue taking their vital medicines when disaster strikes”

PSA South Australian President Robyn Johns said: “We welcome this morning’s announcement as a sensible move in ensuring people affected by bushfires can get urgent access to their regular medicines.”

PSA National President Associate Professor Chris Freeman also welcomed the move.

“PSA has been working with state and territory governments around the country to improve access to prescription medicines in emergency situations,” he said.

“After the current bushfire crisis subsides, we are keen to work collaboratively with all governments to permanently incorporate these more effective and affordable emergency supply provisions into our health system for future disasters.”

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