Although the Health Minister was quick to champion reform of Medicare and the broader health system, his plan to not replace the full funding he is ripping out of community pharmacies will result in a significant reduction in patient care.
Today his only commitment was to “monitor” the impact of his policy on potential pharmacy closures and reduced services and he did not provide a guarantee that no one will be worse off.
Pharmacy Guild economic modelling, using data provided by the Department of Health, shows this policy will cut $3.5 billion in patient care to communities around Australia over the next four years.
This $3.5 billion cut is made up of a $1.2 billion saving to the Budget in Government dispensing fees, with community pharmacies expected to pay for a further $2.3 billion in patient fees for the policy.
National President of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia Trent Twomey said the Government needed to return $3.5 billion to community pharmacies or millions of patients would miss out on care and medicines.
“Mark Butler today talked about fixing the broken health system at the same time he is cutting $3.5 billion out of patient care delivered by community pharmacies.
“Put simply, he’s giving on one hand and taking away with another and that’s bad policy which means bad outcomes for patients.
“The Government’s approach will also be disastrous for the aged care sector, resulting in a significant cut in medicine dispensing services to hundreds of aged care residents.
“And the cut will put more pressure on emergency departments because people will need to go somewhere else when their pharmacy is closed because of reduced operating hours.
Mr Twomey said Mark Butler also refused to guarantee there would be no medicine shortages under his policy.
“Under the Government’s policy, using publicly available information from the TGA, there are 158 medicines that are either in shortage or anticipated shortage when the policy begins,” he said.
“These include Trulicity and Ozempic for diabetes, Cadivast, Acetec Teveten for blood pressure, Simpral for Parkinsons and Zoloft for depression.”
“Double of nothing is still nothing and many patients will not get the medicine they need.”
Mr Twomey said the Government was quick to say their policy copied the same approach overseas in the UK, New Zealand and Wales but doesn’t outline the facts.
“In Wales, the Government guaranteed the viability of community pharmacies to stop mass closures and we would like the same guarantee from our Federal Government.”
Several organisations representing patients and small businesses have spoken out about the Government’s policy and outlined why it’s the wrong approach.
Australian Patient’s Association | Dr NICK COATSWORTH
“We’re concerned about the implementation of this policy, and the detail is important. For example, currently, large numbers of drugs are in short supply, and these changes could lead to patients missing out on medications due to those shortages.
“Secondly, the experience of other countries suggests that we can expect increases of hoarding of drugs by consumers, increasing numbers of tablets being stored in cupboards, which coincides with increases in medication errors. Overflowing home medication cupboards is a safety hazard. Imagine the grandchildren coming around and getting into a cupboard with 450 pills in it” he said.
“It also appears from the current government messaging, that pharmacies will have to bear some of the costs of the savings which have been declared. The savings in costs to consumers is a fantastic outcome, but if that is only partly absorbed by government and passed on to pharmacies, the potential here is that smaller pharmacies will be under pressure. The last thing we want is the loss of pharmacies, which would mean that access for patients is disrupted, and if there are problems in this area, the worst of them will likely be in rural and regional Australia.” Nick Coatsworth
“Will the change benefit consumers or will it be like toilet paper during the pandemic? Some getting more and others missing out. How will the government guarantee supply?”
“I hope this is not another toilet paper crisis, where some have plenty and others not enough…the devil as always will be in the detail”
“COSBOA urges consultation on the announced prescription changes for specific products. Feedback from small business members of the Pharmacy Guild highlights concerns about the proposal's potential negative impacts on both small business pharmacies and their local communities, such as reduced revenue, pressure to maintain extended hours, and potential medicine shortages.
Concerns have been raised about medicine suppliers' ability to ensure adequate stock for consumers. As an alternative, the Government could consider reducing consumer co-payments for each script.
Initially, the proposal seems to expect small business pharmacies to fund consumer cost-of-living savings.”