The Sixth Community Pharmacy Agreement was signed on Wednesday, and reaction has been mostly positive, with a few exceptions.
Most industry commentators praised the Guild’s introduction of the new Administration, Handling and Infrastructure Fee, and the doubling of funding for new and expanded pharmacy professional services.
But there’s been criticism from several corners, particularly about the $1 optional copayment discount.
Here’s AJP’s roundup of its review coverage:
The Pharmacy Guild‘s David Quilty says it’s a solid result.
“The 6CPA has recognised the value of dispensing with the new Administration, Handling and Infrastructure Fee replacing pharmacy mark-up and substantially delinking dispensing remuneration from the cost of medicines,” he says.
“This will enable the Government to continue its PBS reforms whilst not jeopardising standards of patient care.”
Industry analyst Bruce Annabel says the AHI fee is a coup for pharmacy, but it’s not a pot of gold.
“It’s basically insulated pharmacy from the depreciating effects of price disclosure, and the latest invention of price disclosure, the super cycle, and the F1 cuts, which will be significant,” Annabel says.
The Consumers Health Forum isn’t happy. It says the Agreement means consumers overall will pay “billions of dollars” more for prescribed medicines over the next five years.
“Of concern to CHF, which has sought to counter rising health co-payments, is that consumers will be contributing significantly more in increased medicines costs,” the CEO of CHF, Leanne Wells, says.
Terry White, of the eponymous pharmacy group, says the AHI is a great initiative, but the $1 copayment discount is cheap policy.
“I think it’s a terrible intrusion by Government on private enterprise, and in effect it really means that every pharmacy is going to lose $1 per prescription as an unintended consequence,” he says.
The CSO wholesalers discussed a missed opportunity in the Agreement.
“The NPSA argued consistently for the introduction of a floor in the wholesale margin that would have given pharmacy owners much greater protection from the impact of falling PBS unit prices,” says National Pharmaceutical Services Association President Patrick Davies.
The PSA welcomed the news.
“This $1.26 billion for pharmacist-delivered professional services is what the PSA has been long advocating for and represents the largest funding for this crucial area of health provision of any agreement to date,” says president Grant Kardachi.
Melanie Walker, Acting CEO of the Public Health Association of Australia, says with uncertainty over whether the Government will still try to raise the safety net threshold and copayment – or find Budget savings elsewhere – the $1 patient copayment discount announced in the 6CPA could shift financial burden onto pharmacies.
“So the Pharmacy Agreement is trying to reduce costs to the customer by up to $1, but there’s still this spectre that could increase the costs of medicines and reduce access,” she says.
And Professional Pharmacists Australia is still concerned about low pay, poor career progression and high workloads, says its national director Matt Harris, but says the funding for professional programs could help.
“We feel there is more that can be done to address these concerns especially through professional programs, provided they are properly monitored and evaluated,” says Harris.
And the details of the Agreement? Here they are.