Monday, September 25, 2023

Doctors back 60-day policy

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The Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA) has backed the Federal Government’s 60 day dispensing measure for selected medications, saying it is good policy for rural patients.

RDAA has added that it doesn’t believe the plan will impact the financial sustainability of rural and remote pharmacies, as increased supports are being put in place to assist them.

“This is a welcome measure on many levels” RDAA President-elect, Dr. RT Lewandowski, said.

“Rural patients – particularly those with chronic disease – will benefit from the cost savings and convenience that will come by only having to fill their regular medication scripts every two months.

“Given many rural patients are on low incomes, this will make a big difference to their cost of living.

“Additionally, the many rural patients who live long distances from their nearest pharmacy will benefit by not having to get their regular scripts filled each month.

“Some rural farming families can live well over one hundred kilometres from their nearest pharmacy, so the time they spend on the road can be significant.

“The need to travel long distances to get scripts filled regularly can be so onerous and costly for some rural patients that they simply let their medications lapse – clearly, the move to a 60 day dispensing plan will help prevent this burden of travel for these patients.


“RDAA has welcomed a commitment from the Federal Government that it will reinvest savings from this initiative back into primary care.

“We have also welcomed a doubling for very remote pharmacies of the Regional Pharmacy Maintenance Allowance. For a pharmacy in a very remote community that has minimal dispensing activity, this support payment will increase to just over $100,000 annually per pharmacy.

“Most other rural pharmacies will also receive increased support through this measure, depending on their remoteness and their level of dispensing activity.

“Additionally, the reduced revenue for pharmacies from dispensing fees will be supplemented by more opportunity to increase the number of medication reviews that pharmacists undertake (which attract government payments) as well as increased vaccination programs in pharmacies and other initiatives.

“We will be carefully monitoring the Government’s commitments to rural and remote pharmacies going forward, however, as we want to ensure they remain in our rural towns and remain commercially viable.

“RDAA genuinely supports the role of pharmacists as a key part of the rural multidisciplinary care team. The integration of multidisciplinary care is the key, ensuring that all members of the team (doctors, nurses, pharmacists, allied health professionals and others) are able to work to their full scopes of practice while ensuring the care being provided is not fragmented.

“Many of our rural doctor members have expressed their appreciation of measures to enable pharmacists to have a greater role in the primary care space, as they have a trusted relationship with their local pharmacist and know that the pharmacists will reach out if they have concerns about a patient – therefore not compromising the quality of care being provided.”

Dr. Lewandowski added that, given the new dispensing arrangements will not increase the overall amount of medications being dispensed, RDAA does not believe that medication supply will be impacted by the 60 day dispensing arrangements.

“We are certain that if there are any initial supply issues these will be quickly resolved, particularly given the long lead time put in place by the Government to enable forward orders of additional medication supplies by pharmacies,” he said.


“Additionally, there will only be a very limited range of medications for which the 60-day dispensing rule will apply.

The medications in scope are generally linked to the management of chronic disease, and doctors will have discretion to write 60-day scripts only where they deem it appropriate for their patient.

“As such, we would caution against fear-mongering with regard to medication supply issues, as it is causing significant concern to rural patients – many of whom are elderly and have chronic disease.

“We are disappointed that some of this messaging has raised concerns about the supply of medications like antibiotics, even though these are generally time-limited medications which will not be in scope for the 60-day dispensing reform anyway.

“We have previously stated that all participants in the health sector need to embrace sensible reform if we are to improve access to healthcare for all patients.

“We would urge all stakeholders to get behind this reform, given additional supports have been put in place to assist pharmacies and other reforms where the benefits to patients are clear.”

The Buloke Times 4 July 2023

This article appeared in The Buloke Times, 4 July 2023.


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