A leading figure representing Australian pharmacists has smothered tears as he issued a foul-mouthed spray against the government over its new drug script policy.
Controversial Australian Pharmacy Guild president Trent Twomey, who has previously been criticized for his views on Covid-19, said Health Minister Mark Butler ‘doesn’t seem to care’.
Mr Butler announced on Wednesday that patients will be able to buy double their stock of some prescription drugs from January.
The rule change will see 325 medicines dispensed in 60-day doses instead of the current 30-day, a move that Mr Twomey says will put some pharmacies out of business.
Speaking at Parliament House in Canberra, Mr Twomey told government MPs to ‘shake your head’ and talk to pharmacists, who he said should cut staff, cut hours and cut services because they losing $170,000 each year under the change.
Health Secretary Mark Butler (pictured) announced Wednesday that patients will be able to buy double their stock of some prescription drugs from January
The government will cut $1.2 billion in pharmacy fees over four years, with Mr Butler promising all that money will be reinvested directly into community pharmacies to help them offer more services.
“I don’t pretend this is going to be easy for community pharmacies,” Butler said Wednesday.
MEDICINES ELIGIBLE FOR 60-DAY PRESCRIPTION
More than 320 drugs will be provided in 60-day doses – instead of the current 30.
The scheme is mainly aimed at people suffering from chronic conditions such as heart disease, cholesterol, Crohn’s disease and hypertension.
The list includes the drugs atorvastatin, rosuvastatin, and perindopril.
“I really appreciate the work they’re doing and that’s why we’ve phased this in this year and next year.”
But Mr Twomey said pharmacists will still suffer losses from patient reimbursements, which the Pharmacy Guild estimates at $2.3 billion over four years, compared to the government’s figure of $1.6 billion.
“They don’t pay that back,” he said. “The pharmacist carries the entire remainder of the cut.
“And that’s what will send these guys to the wall. And (Mr. Butler) just doesn’t seem to care.”
Mr. Twomey then apologized for his language and said, ‘I’m a North Queenslander. I don’t mean to swear, but they just don’t care.
“You know, this is supposed to be a government that cares. That’s not how people work.’
The 60-day scripted policy was recommended by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee and endorsed by physician groups and the Consumer Health Forum (CHF), who said it will save patients up to $180 a year on each drug.
“This is a really good move that shows the government is listening to consumer voices,” said CHF chief executive Elizabeth Deveny.
“Every dollar saved at the pharmacy is money that could be spent on groceries or rent.”
Australian Pharmacy Guild president Trent Twomey (pictured) swallowed tears as he issued a foul-mouthed spray at the government for its new drug scripting policy
Mr Twomey also warned of drug shortages, saying Mr Butler was making ‘false claims’ when he said only seven drugs currently had supply problems.
The minister said he wanted to “warn about some scare campaigns from the pharmacy lobby group” as he rejected claims of widespread supply problems.
He said only seven of the list of 325 drugs were in short supply and they were closely monitored by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
“We have made a conscious decision to phase in these arrangements over the course of this year and next year to allow pharmacists to change their travel schedules,” said Butler.
The opposition supports the Pharmacy Guild and says they want to see more information about the changes.
But Mr Butler said the Coalition should support this ‘important cost-of-living measure that is good for hip pockets and good for Australians’ health’.
“Perhaps no one will be surprised that, given the choice between supporting patients or making a profit,[Opposition leader Peter]Dutton has again decided to leave patients out in the cold,” he said.
In January 2022, Mr Twomey said it would be a good time to get Covid-19 and admitted he was no longer allowing his children to wear face masks.
He said that would be the most “easiest” time to catch the virus to fit into his family’s schedule.
Australians will soon be able to buy 60-day prescription drugs at once, for the same price as a 30-day supply
“There is no right time to get Covid, but if my family has to get it, now would be a good time,” he said.
Chris Moy, then vice president of the Australian Medical Association, denounced Mr Twomey’s comments as setting a bad example.
“I don’t believe this is responsible, both from a public health point of view and from an example point of view,” said Dr Moy.
“Mitting in with us is not the same as fitting in with the whole community.”
Changes to how Australians access prescription drugs
– Health Minister Mark Butler has announced that from 1 September this year, six million Australians will have access to two months’ worth of medicines for the price of one month.
– The changes to the Medicine Regulations will apply to more than 320 medicines, including those for chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease and high cholesterol.
– The move is expected to save adult patients $180 a year for each drug. Concession ticket holders are expected to be better off $43.80 for each drug.
– GPs can still script a month’s supply if they think there is a risk to the patient.
– ‘While eligible Australians can buy double the number of medicines on one script, the total demand for medicines remains unchanged. This reform will not affect the availability of medicines and will not increase shortages,” the government said in a press release announcing the change.