‘The public are looking to pharmacy to stand up in this crisis.’

white coat professional shouting into megaphone

The NSW Government has announced it will extend the special authority for emergency supply of medicines without a prescription

Patients will be able to receive a maximum PBS quantity or pack size until 30 September 2020 without a script, if the pharmacist is satisfied that there is immediate need.

The medicine must have been previously prescribed, and be for the continuation of current essential treatment where it is impractical to obtain a prescription.

Pharmacy Guild NSW branch president David Heffernan told the AJP that this was a “pragmatic response to the pandemic crisis” and congratulated NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard and his staff, as well as Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant and her team, Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Deputy Premier John Barilaro, saying that the Pharmacy Guild has been in close regular contact with the Ministry to find solutions during the pandemic.

“Pharmacists are standing up, pharmacists are there, and the nation is relying on us,” Mr Heffernan said.

“These measures will benefit patients, because a lot of patients can’t get in to see GPs. There are some GPs who are working remotely, a lot of elderly patients are not tech-savvy enough to do telehealth, and so we fundamentally welcome these provisions.

“We are working closely with the Ministry in bringing on other pragmatic responses to help enable our members to serve the needs of the public.”

He said that the Guild is also keen to communicate with the general public that they do not need to stockpile medicines, particularly in the light of the extended provisions. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, there have been numerous reports of such stockpiling, with an AJP poll indicating it was rife for prescription medicines and OTCs.

“Patients don’t need to spend their money on buttressing a fortress of medication, because we’ll be there tomorrow,” Mr Heffernan said.

“Pharmacists have always been there and we’re going to be there for the public. For centuries we’ve taken on different pandemics head-on, and we’ll do the same with this one.

 “We recommend that anyone aged 65 to 70 and over call their pharmacist, because we’ll provide a solution, through travel, delivery and continuation of medicine as well as the usual advice.”

He asked pharmacists and staff who are in the over-70s age bracket, who are particularly at risk of a worse outcome should they contract COVID-19, to “consider your position” and to reconsider their interactions with parents, grandparents and other older people.

“We’re going to come through the other end of this,” he said. “But fundamentally, the public are looking to pharmacy to stand up in this crisis, and we’re doing so.”

PSA NSW President Professor Peter Carroll also congratulated the NSW Government for extending the emergency supply rules.

“PSA fully supports and thanks the NSW Government for this very sensible approach which will reduce the concerns of those in the community who may find it hard to access medicines in this challenging environment,” he said.

“This will enable patients to still have ongoing access to their regular medicines in the event that they are not able to see their doctor for a prescription or must self-isolate.

“We are hearing from patients that their GPs are overwhelmed and can be difficult to get an appointment. This flexible approach to health care will ensure pharmacists can continue to support the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As the peak national body for pharmacists, PSA has called for and worked with the NSW Government to allow the continuation of emergency dispensing that was put in place during the recent bushfire crisis to ensure patients and members of the community continue to gain access to much needed medicines.”

He said that PSA will continue to work closely with NSW Health to support pharmacists during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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