Consumer voice for community pharmacy
Consumers would win an important place in future negotiations about government payments to pharmacy owners and the services they provide under an option proposed in the interim report of the Review of Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation.
“The recognition of the importance of consumer interests in the provision and payment of community pharmacies, costing the taxpayer many billions of dollars, is a welcome and long-sought advance.
“The interim report of the review acknowledges the need for broader input into the Community Pharmacy Agreement and proposes the option that the Consumers Health Forum should be signatory to future agreements,” CHF spokesman, Mark Metherell, said.
“The value of pharmacies to the health and wellbeing of our community is clear. But so too is the need for such a vital and expensive part of the health system to have effective consumer involvement in setting directions and priorities in how and when consumers access key medicines.
“As the review, headed by Professor Stephen King states, previous pharmacy agreements between the Government and the Pharmacy Guild have led to important improvements but have also limited improvements in some areas. There remain significant opportunities for pharmacies to improve services such as reducing medicine-related risks for patients being discharged from hospital.
“The only organisation which thinks the Pharmacy Agreement should involve only the Pharmacy Guild and the Government is the Pharmacy Guild.
“There remain significant areas where pharmacy owners, represented by the guild, retain a favoured place as a result of the Government decision to retain location rules which will continue to protect current owners against competition in many areas, despite the stated option of the review.
“The review’s interim reports suggests a variety of options to improve the pricing and supply of medicines by pharmacies.
“However we are concerned by the option to restrict pricing variations for prescribed medicines and for the abolition of the $1 discount provision, measures which would likely increase out of pocket costs for patients.
“But much of the report is positive for consumers, including an expansion of trading hours, the provision of consumer medicine information leaflets and streamlining of Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme safety net provisions.
“It proposes an easily accessible and searchable ‘atlas’ of all community pharmacies providing patient information on services and opening hours.
“The review finds that the extent and quality of information about pharmacy remuneration concerning dispensing costs is currently not adequate and that it is overly complex and opaque. It states that ‘the variation in pricing for medicines due to pharmacy pricing discretion creates consumer confusion’,”.
“The inclusion of consumer representatives to maximise the benefits of the PBS and pharmacy services that better serve consumer needs is long overdue,” Mr Metherell said.