Australia’s main medical body has welcomed a push to allow GPs to write prescriptions for some drugs, as Australia battles both. a cost of living crisis and a health system crisis.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) announced that it wants the federal government to make it easier for people to access medicines and make medicines cheaper, and it hopes that extending prescription periods will help this.
The proposed prescribing reforms were backed by Australian Medical Association Vice President Dr Danielle McMullen, who said the new daily they were a “no brainer”.
The reforms include extending the duration of some prescriptions, which the RACGP says could save patients and doctors time.
The RACGP also wants to allow a larger one-time supply of drugs, saying having a two-month supply could reduce dispensing fees, which in 2021-22 cost taxpayers $1.67 billion.
Dr. McMullen said the reforms would not apply to all prescription drugs, but to about 140 that are considered “stable.”
“WWe’re talking about chronic conditions (like) blood pressure, cholesterol, people who are stable on their medications, and we know patients who have been crying out for that easier access to medications,” he said.
“This also frees up doctors’ visits and obviously also reduces the cost, particularly for people with a concession card.”
Drugs of dependence or drugs that have a difficult safety profile are not among the drugs that would apply to the changes, he said.
The country’s largest representative body for GPs says the budget would be an opportunity for the government to reduce cost-of-living pressures by acting on reforms.
The reforms are not a ‘silver bullet’
While Dr McMullen supports the reforms, she says they will not solve all the problems facing healthcare in Australia.
“There is no such thing as a silver bullet and I am not going to promise that a solution will fix the access problem, but it will certainly help,” he said.
Appointment availability should be freed up, and doctors could write 12-month prescriptions, theoretically leading to less waiting room time.
The burden would then be reduced for patients, who would not have to go to the pharmacy as often.
There would still be clinical discretion, Dr. McMullen said. Doctors aren’t likely to give a patient a two-month dash if they’re starting a new medication.
“I would probably only prescribe them one month at a time for the first few months,” he said.
“So they can stabilize on it, make sure we’re not wasting medication if you end up changing the dosage, making sure people really understand how to use the drug and what side effects it might have.”
What else could change?
The RACGP does not want the reforms to be limited to expanding the recipes and allowing a greater supply.
RACGP President Dr. Nicole Higgins wants the complex to Pharmaceutical Benefits Program (PBS) to be more efficient.
“It would result in shorter visits, lower Medicare bills, and GPs having more time to spend with patients, rather than cumbersome administration,” Dr. Higgins said.
The representative body also supports further investigation of the benefits of changing the $1 discount rule.
Dr. Higgins said the rule prevents pharmacies from discounting drugs that cost more than the current $30 copay by more than $1.
“Other countries like New Zealand don’t have this rule, so pharmacies can offer significant discounts on some drugs,” he said.
What do the pharmacists say?
Not everyone is in favor of the reforms. The Pharmacy Guild has long opposed the reforms.
A union spokesman told the Sydney Morning Herald that the current system that typically allows for a month’s supply of drugs “hits a practical balance between patient comfort and minimizing drug availability in the patient’s home.
“When a patient returns to their community pharmacy for a repeat fill of a prescribed medication, pharmacists have the opportunity to access patient compliance with the prescribed medication and can intervene if mix-ups or adverse drug reactions are identified,” the spokesperson said. .
In 2022, several states in Australia have promised trials in which pharmacists could deliver prescriptions for some drugs.
The Pharmacists Guild said the pilot programs would help reduce hospital stress, however the RACGP did not support the various pilot programs in Australia.
the new daily contacted The Pharmacy Guild of Australia for comment.