60-day dispensing rules could lead to more than 600 pharmacy closures

pharmacy closures are being predicted

An independent report, commissioned by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia (PGA), highlights the potentially disastrous consequences of the Albanese government’s new 60-day dispensing policy.

The report predicts the closure of 665 pharmacies, resulting in the loss of 20,000 jobs, and ongoing adverse effects for vulnerable patients. Additionally, it recommends delaying the policy’s implementation beyond its proposed 1 September start date to allow for proper consultation with the community and pharmacy sector.

The report was conducted by economist Henry Ergas of Tulipwood Advisory and the Relational Insights Data Lab at Griffith University, on behalf of the PGA.

The findings underscore the adverse impact the 60-day dispensing policy will have on elderly people with chronic health conditions.

It predicts the closure of 665 pharmacies, with an additional 900 pharmacies at risk of shutting down.

To deal with these closures and cost pressures, pharmacies will cut opening hours, including over weekends and end free services for patients such as blood pressure monitoring, home delivery of medicines and diabetes and asthma programs.

PGA president Trent Twomey says the independent report should be a wake-up call for the government, given its policy was announced without consultation or modelling.

“This independent report confirms the policy is catastrophic in its current form, leading to over 20,000 job losses, more than 650 pharmacies shutting, weekend opening hours drastically scaled back and millions of free services cut,” he says.

“You scratch the surface and look behind the positive headline, and you find only a small number of people benefit compared to millions of Australians who will either miss out, pay more, or have reduced services.

“We are prepared to sit down with the government and discuss the viability of 6000 community pharmacies but they must be realistic about their policy’s impact and how rushed it has been.”

The PGA says the new model amounts to a $4.5 billion cut in government funding to community pharmacies over four years.

It says the changes will disproportionally affect vulnerable communities, including the elderly, and those with chronic health conditions. Any benefit gained from this policy will be offset by reduced access to free services currently offered by pharmacies, the PGA says.

The PGA also predicts an estimated cost to the taxpayer of $2.5 billion over four years for increased hospital admissions relating to medicine mismanagement from increased medicines in the home.

It also says an increased rate of missed diagnosis due to less interaction between patients and their GPs and pharmacists is inevitable.

Are you worried about the consequences of the 60-day dispensing change? Or do the benefits outweigh the negatives? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Also read: Major supermarket takes another step into pharmacy sales

Written by Brad Lockyer

Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.

8 Comments

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  1. I am concerned when an already highly government supported retail sector lobbies to retain an artificial inefficiency to maintain its profitability. It makes sense for customers to be able to buy two months supply of essential medicines when it suits them and it is more efficient for pharmacies to supply double the amount in one purchase. Ask the supermarkets what they’d prefer, small or large purchases?
    We are warned against studies of new medications funded by the pharmaceutical industry; we should be equally cynical of studies paid for by the pharmacy sector.
    The best approach would be for the government proposal to go ahead and those small pharmacies in isolated locations which may be in danger of closure to be invited to submit their income statement for support where necessary.

    • Over the decades The Pharmacy Guild has been held up as the most successful lobby group in the nation. Governments, it would appear, are too frightened to consider the best interests of the electorate because of the often “whithering attacks on governments” who wish to ensure fairness in the market.

      I live just north of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Within a kilometre of my home there are:
      4 x pharmacies in North Sydney,
      1 x pharmacy in McMahons Point,
      and 1 x pharmacy in Kirribilli.

      Looking at the population of North Sydney Local Government Area there are less than 70,000. In my part of North Sydney, which makes up less than a third of the LGA, I have 6 pharmacies serving a population of probably just over 20,000 residents. That’s crazy. No wonder they want to continue with an outdated, totally unfair waste of OUR money.

  2. The government (Medicare) already restrict the provision of authorised, prescription-only painkilling medications to 30 days. That means even if your GP sees you require a larger dosage of such medication (which is often the case) he/she is not permitted to prescribe more for the patient. Now they want to restrict the provision of everything else to 60 days.

    Call me cynical if you like, but I smell a government-inspired rat in the house. I can’t help but wonder if the cost of parliamentary salaries and pensions hasn’t also risen to something in the region of another $4.5 billion in recent years.

  3. The loss of interaction between GP’s and their patients has nothing to do with this, the loss of interaction is because people can’t get appointments with their GP’s when they need them or you have to wait weeks for an appointment or can’t afford to pay since most don’t bulk bill any more. My GP of 35 years, still bulk bills concession card holders but it’s still almost impossible to get an appointment for weeks with her and they are no longer taking any new patients, same thing a lot of clinics are doing.

  4. I am concerned when a journal publishes comments like this one “An independent report, commissioned by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia (PGA), highlights the potentially disastrous consequences of the Albanese government’s new 60-day dispensing policy”.
    A report is not independent when it is bought and paid for by the organisation that it is reporting on. It is like industries that self-regulate; they never do! Self interest will always out, and to pretend that the outcome of the “independent” report commissioned by the PGA is any different is ludicrous.
    The Government, quite rightly, is trying to reduce the number of visits to GPs for referrals and thus the impositions on patients in terms of fees, travel. lost wages and convenience both visiting their doctor and their pharmacy; and free up time the physicians to attend to more sick patients. It’s a win for patients and doctors. Sure visits to the pharmacies may reduce, however the income from their primary source of income i.e. selling medication, doesn’t change. And folk can stock up on the non prescription items in one visit, not two, much more convenient.

  5. There has been an uneven response from ‘interested groups’ to deride the Government’s effort to bring some cost-saving measures for patients on chronic medication. With a 60-days prescription, the pharmacist receives one dispensing fee, whereas with a 28-30 days supply – the current practice – it could be postulated that the pharmacist will be short-changed. From my enquiries, it looks as though the list of medicines which could be prescribed for 60 days will be limited. The Pharmaceutical Safety Net would appear to remain at the same limit; in other words, it’ll take longer to reach that limit, so the patient will need to spend more to reach that limit. Do all patients need the 60 days supply? If there is a restriction on which medicines will fall under the 60 days dispensing rule, it would appear that patients with chronic conditions will gain. Of course, the Pharmacy Guild will look after their interests, no different to the pharmaceutical industry but we need to remember that medicines are subsidised by the Federal Government.

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