The Guild is now in a “dispute” with the Government after news which left national president George Tambassis “staggered”
Mr Tambassis has sent a communique to Guild members advising that the organisation is “currently in a dispute with the Government after we learned of their intention to implement sweeping changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme which would have a devastating impact on the viability of community pharmacy businesses across Australia”.
Mr Tambassis wrote of a “sense of astonishment and anger” over the proposed measure, which would see prescription quantities increased from one month to two months to more than 140 molecules on the PBS.
This proposal followed an unpublished recommendation from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, he writes.
“This would be a retrograde step which would put quantity ahead of quality use of medicines, triggering much lower medication adherence rates among patients with chronic illnesses, leading ultimately to higher health costs.
“The proposed change would also have had a catastrophic effect on community pharmacy businesses.
“Profitability of many pharmacies would have been effectively halved, sending them to the wall, with mass loss of jobs and displacement of vital patient services.
“The knock-on effects of such a measure would be calamitous for our sector and the Australian health system.”
Mr Tambassis says that the Federal Government intended to implement the measure without consultation with the Pharmacy Guild.
“I am staggered that such a measure was countenanced and prepared for implementation without any consultation with the Guild, in clear breach of the Community Pharmacy Agreement,” he writes.
“We believe we have succeeded in dissuading the Government from proceeding with this destructive, unwarranted idea, but we cannot rest until we are confident it is off the table – now and forever.”
Mr Tambassis says that he has written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg regarding what he calls this “near catastrophe”.
He says he has urged them to move to restore Pharmacy Guild members’ confidence in the Government’s capacity to “understand their needs, the needs of their staff and patients, and the needs of the banks who provide the finance that underpins the businesses”.
The Guild has demanded a letter of support for community pharmacy.
Mr Tambassis says that this must include an express commitment that the 7CPA ensure that, “at a minimum, aggregate and per prescription remuneration for community pharmacies dispensing medicines is maintained in real terms as stated in the current 6CPA”.
The request also demands that the Government provide an express commitment that where, during the term of the Seventh Agreement, the Australian Government proposes a health related reform that may impact community pharmacy, any decision to proceed must be with written agreement of the Guild.
It also asks the Government to provide “An express commitment to restore the universality of the PBS by removing the flawed optional $1 discount of the PBS co-payments, in line with the recommendation of the Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation Review, and replacing it with an across-the-board $1 reduction in the co-payments”.
On Wednesday, Mr Tambassis also provided an opinion piece for publication in pharmacy media, which was published by the AJP.
In this piece, he urged that legislators “not wreck the best medicine system in the world” by increasing the quantities of medicines routinely dispensed on a PBS script.
He referenced a piece penned in the Medical Journal of Australia by prominent GP and regular critic of the pharmacy sector Dr Evan Ackermann, in which the doctor suggested longer script times for people with certain chronic conditions.
Mr Tambassis said that the evidence supporting regular consultation with pharmacists was “overwhelming”.