Chemists feel pain

Chemists feel pain

Lynwood 777 owner Natalie Willis believes changes to the PBS have left pharmacists in the lurch. Photograph - Aaron Van Rongen

Pharmacists around the City of Canning believe they have been shafted after the Federal Government made changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme, and say the benefit to patients has been oversold.

Announced as part of the Federal Budget, the changes to the PBS were designed to save long-term patients time and money.

Under the PBS, patients are now able to buy 60 days’ worth of medicine for the price of a single prescription from September.

The change will mean more patients need fewer visits to the GP for repeat prescriptions, and the Government estimates it will save Australians more than $1.6 billion over the next four years.

The decision to supply a two-month supply of medicine will be controlled by the patient’s doctor, while the option for a one-month supply remains.

However local pharmacists are up in arms over the decision, with the two-month prescriptions cutting their dispensing fees – paid to pharmacists by the Commonwealth – I half.

Lynwood 777 owner Natalie Willis said not only will pharmacies be hit financially, the benefit to patients has been exaggerated.

“The Federal Government has cut community pharmacy by something in the order of $3.5 billion over the next four years by cutting basically 18 per cent of our dispensing renumeration,” she said.

“You can’t take that much out of a model and expect it to stand up.

“So the patients get a 60-day supply of medicines for the same co-payment they would get for a 30-day supply, but the pharmacists only gets reimbursed for a 30-day supply.

“So we’re being asked to wear the cost of the second supply.

“It’s not necessarily a good thing for the patients either, there’s already a safety net in place, and for patients that reach that safety net in the first half of the year, they won’t save a single cent on this policy. They’ll still spend the same amount of money.

“The other services people get, for free or a nominal charge like wound cleaning and delivery and blood pressure checks, they’re going to get charged more.”

Ms Willis said Tangney MP Sam Lim, who has several pharmacists in his family, had been receptive to their concerns, but one MP cannot impact significant change.

“We agree medicines should be cheaper,” Ms Willis said.

“This proposal, even if the Government wants to go to 60 days, needs to be done in a way that keeps pharmacies whole and doesn’t result in patients being worse off.

“We’re not anti-everything, but there’s no point having cheaper medicine if there are no pharmacies around to deliver them.”