Tug-of-war for drugs set to erupt with medication dispensary changes

Apr 27, 2023

A PROPOSED major change to the way medication is dispensed has caused grave concerns throughout the nation’s pharmacies with the industry reporting more patients will miss out on life-saving products if an increase is allowed.

Katter’s Australian Party MP Bob Katter has been inundated with community pharmacists worried about the Federal Government’s proposal to allow patients to receive 60-days worth of medication on one script, an increase from the current 30-day period. The change is expected to come into effect on July 1.

Pharmacy Guild of Australia national president Trent Twomey told Mr Katter he appreciated the government’s attempt to ease pressure on GPs, but said this change would have detrimental effects on community chemists and customers.

“There are 472 drugs that are unavailable in Australia, we don’t have enough medicine to give everyone one box and the government wants us to start giving people two boxes on July 1,” Mr Twomey said.

“So which patients do they want us to give two to, and which patients do they want us to give none to?

“The PBS (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme) is 75 years old this year, the entire system has been built on giving people one box at a time, if you want to redesign the system, you don’t do it in a budget release, without talking to the sector on how it’s actually going to work.”

Mr Twomey said the changes would also reduce dispensing fees which pharmacists earned, estimating a $3.5bn cut from pharmacies nationwide which Mr Katter said was a great fear that every day mums and dads would have to pay an increase in receiving essential medication to make up for this shortfall.

“This means costs will be passed on to patients or services reduced, not to mention the cuts to jobs and opening hours. I’ve got young pharmacists saying they’ll be bankrupt, and I’ve got old pharmacists saying their superannuation has just evaporated,” Mr Twomey said.

He said it wasn’t as simple as “just ordering more stock” because Australia manufactured very few medications and imported about 95 per cent of products.

Mr Twomey said he didn’t object to increasing the length of a prescription “so people don’t have to go back to their doctor – we think that’s a great idea.”

Mr Katter supported Mr Twomey’s position and said other small pharmacists from his electorate had raised concerns about corporate players “out-purchasing” small family businesses in what is set to become a tug-of-war for drugs.

“I’ve been informed by your family-run pharmacists that when the medication shortage will be in full effect, they won’t have the power to source and order stocks to match the larger corporate chemists,” Mr Katter said.

“So if you don’t have the medication, where are all the customers going to go – to whomever has them obviously.

“Now our governments seem to have no sense of sovereign essential services. Just like everything else, I’ve been told we import over 95 per cent of our medication.

“Mr Twomey has told me the pharmacy industry would support Australian manufacturing of medication, but he too understands that to establish any kind of manufacturing, you need cheap, reliable energy.”