‘Troubling’ system under fire

Pharmacy is the only healthcare profession in Australia that ties provision of clinical services to the value of the medicine prescribed, argues leader

Pharmacist clinical services should be funded separately to prescribed medicines, argues SHPA Chief Executive Kristin Michaels in a recent column for Hospital and Healthcare.

Ms Michaels pointed out that a large proportion of new medicines approved for subsidy are much more complex, carry higher costs and are overwhelmingly used or initiated in hospitals due to the serious nature of the conditions being treated.

Hospital pharmacists now manage 23% of all PBS expenditure today, she said, making hospital pharmacy input essential to the reviews of the Pharmaceutical Reform Agreement and National Medicines Policy.

However, in 2019, a “surprise” $44 million was cut in PBS remuneration for hospital pharmacists in the Federal budget.

“A troubling and unaddressed legacy of our shifting medicines landscape is that pharmacy is the only healthcare profession in Australia that ties the provision of clinical services to the value of the medicine prescribed,” said Ms Michaels.

“This is ethically inconsistent with the purpose of the policies under review, especially given growing knowledge of deprescribing as an intervention that can improve quality of life.

As a top priority, these reviews must place the patient at the centre of reform and fund clinical services separately.

“The decoupling of funding for medicines and funding the unique expertise to safely deliver them cannot reduce other services within our already constrained healthcare sector.”

Ms Michaels calls for distinct pharmacist funding and a greater investment in the next generation of pharmacy workers, citing proven benefits of hospital pharmacists on reducing medicine errors.

“An unintentional zero or a misplaced decimal point can result in a fatal tenfold overdose — it is these errors that hospital pharmacists are expertly able to detect and prevent harm to the patient,” she said.

“On the national scale, we cannot afford to see the current figures of 250,000 medication-related hospital admissions per year, costing $1.4bn, increase any further.

“We should be proud of our much longer list of life-saving PBS-subsidised medicines and determined to ensure they are always used safely and fairly in every corner of our country.”

Read the full article here

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