Under the spotlight

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Pharmacist medication programs and DAA fees questioned during Senate Estimates hearings

Health Department officials were questioned about the costs and details of a number of pharmacy medication management programs during last week’s Senate Estimates hearings.

It was revealed that, since the start of the pandemic (and up to 14 October) there had been 1.3 million home medicines services delivered to “some 4670 pharmacies around Australia” at a cost of about $10.7 million.

Of these programs, around one million were in metropolitan areas and 200,000 in rural and remote areas, the bureaucrats said.

Greens Senator Rachel Siewert (Greens, WA) asked a series of questions about changings to funding levels for dose administration aids as part of the Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement, and the fees that pharmacists could charge for this service.

In response, Ben Sladic, Assistant Secretary, Technology Assessment and Access Division, said: “the commitment in the first year of the Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement is to increase the base caps for the dose administration aids that pharmacists can claim from the current level of 30 to 60”.

“That’s something we’re working through. We’ll be talking more to the guild and other stakeholders ahead of that planning to commence in January. That commitment was touched on at the announcement of the agreement,” he said.

Adriana Platona, First Assistant Secretary of the same division said “we have been allocated, as part of the Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement, $1.2 billion over five years. Yes, there is a budget and that is the budget constraint, and we will try to manage within the budget”.

Senator Siewert then asked “Pharmacists get paid for doing this don’t they? Could you take on notice what that is? I presume it varies with the different aids and things or is just one fee?”

Mr Sladic responded that “I will take it on notice for the dose administration aids to confirm that I think it is a partial subsidisation of about $5.50, for each dose administration, that the pharmacist gets paid under the community pharmacy agreement.

But that doesn’t stop them charging private fees separately to that. For the actual patient the amount that is subsidised through the pharmacy agreement from the government is about $5.50, but I will confirm that on notice.”

When asked if pharmacists do charge an additional fee, Mr Sladic simply responded: “Yes”, before adding that he would look on notice to find out what size of additional fee they charge”.

Questioning then moved to the staged supply program, with Department officials unclear of whether medicines dispensed under the opioid dependency treatment were included.

“As far as the crossover between the opioid dependence treatment program and the community
pharmacy staged supply program, similarly, I would need to take that on notice and check. But my understanding is that the opioid dependence treatment program is probably separate to that and relates to money that goes to states and territories for the delivery of some of that,” Mr Sladic said.

“We will check the interplay between the two programs. They are separate pools of money, and
we’ll come back to you to confirm how they work together,” Ms Platona said.



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