This month, the federal government implemented a new dispensing strategy for the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, which means that clients can buy medication sufficient for 60 days for the price of a single prescription.
The Hunter family is forced to schedule their daily activities according to the hour.
Isla, who is four years old, has been diagnosed with Batten disease, which is a hereditary disorder that is terminal in nature and affects both the brain and the neurological system. This condition only occurs in one child out of every 100,000.
Isla’s mother, Nikita Hunter, explains that due of her daughter’s condition, they try to take life one day at a time and one hour at a time. “With Isla’s condition, you just don’t know what tomorrow may bring,” she says.
Because she is the only person in Australia with her subtype, the support available to her is quite limited.
The Hunter family makes their home at Smythesdale, which is located approximately 20 kilometers south-west of Ballarat. Because of her condition, Isla must adhere to a rigorous treatment plan, which consists of giving her five different anti-seizure drugs.
The family is in luck because Smythesdale has its very own independent pharmacy, where they can go to pick up their prescriptions and get medical advice.
According to Hunter, the local pharmacy in the country is significantly more dependable than the pharmacies in the city, and it treats her as “more than just a number.”
“I rely heavily on [the pharmacy] for stock, better communication, and understanding,” she says. “[The pharmacy] is my go-to.” “[Isla] is a little girl who is unable to function properly without these medications, and since both of my boys are medicated for ADHD, they too are unable to function properly without them.”
The modifications will take place in three stages over the course of a year, and they will affect more than 300 different medication. Although some of Isla’s drugs are included in the plan’s coverage, Hunter claims that there are other, more expensive ones that are not covered by it. These medications include the ones she needs to take for the boys.
She adds that it won’t be anything out of the ordinary for the both of us.
Julian Daffy, who is a co-owner of the Smythesdale pharmacy and thinks that the changes are likely to have a severe impact on the business operations and services offered, predicts that his pharmacy would lose tens of thousands of dollars within the first year as a result of the changes.
A sizable percentage of a pharmacy’s revenue comes from Medicare, but instead of paying them the standard dispensing fee, the government program only pays them half of what it would normally pay. According to Daffy, this impacts the company’s capacity to pay its employees and keep its doors open.
“At this stage we are going to take a wait-and-see approach, and we won’t be making significant changes to our staffing, pricing, or charging for services,” adds Daffy. “We will not be making any announcements regarding these changes until further notice.”
“There is only one pharmacist working at the Smythesdale location. There is always one pharmacist there who is spending time with patients, delivering medication packs, or recognizing concerns; but, the quality of care that patients receive may suffer as a result of [this policy].
In order to make up for the money that has been lost, the pharmacist at the Smythesdale pharmacy, Briddon Hardwick, suggests that pharmacies may need to raise the prices of services such as prescription packs and over-the-counter drugs.
“A more concerning change could be that the pharmacy would have to reduce hours and cut staff in order to remain viable,” he says. This would leave people who are already vulnerable without access to a community pharmacy, which would have a significant impact on their health.
“While I wholeheartedly support making prescription drugs more affordable, I can’t help but feel that the government could have handled this situation more effectively.”
The Trentham pharmacy is owned by Mina Ghobrial. According to him, the 60-day regulation will make the already serious supply shortages much worse, diminish foot traffic, and make it more difficult for patients to get access to health advice.
“Country pharmacies provide a readily accessible point of care without the need for an appointment,” he says. “This is something that’s not always available in urban settings.”
Every single dollar that the government is able to save as a result of lower dispensing costs is going to be invested back into community pharmacies, according to the Department of Health and Aged Care.
About one thousand pharmacies located in regional, rural, and remote areas of Australia will be eligible to receive additional payments over the course of the next four years. These payments are intended to assist these pharmacies in making the transition to providing a wider variety of services. The highest cash, totaling $396,909 over the course of four years, will be allocated to pharmacies located in big rural towns, followed by pharmacies located in very remote villages, which will receive $198,263, and finally pharmacies located in regional centers or outer suburbs, which will receive $50,032. Because it is less than 20 kilometers away from Ballarat, the pharmacy in Smythesdale does not eligible for as much support as some of the other pharmacies in rural areas. According to Hardwick, his pharmacy will not receive enough to compensate for the anticipated loss in sales.
Mark Butler, the federal minister for health, has stated that every single Australian will profit from the changes, which would free up millions of visits to general practitioners and bring assistance amid the current crisis in regards to the cost of living.
According to what he had to say, “it will also be good for the health of Australians, in addition to being good for the hip pocket.” According to research conducted in other countries, the length of a patient’s prescription is associated with an increase in medication adherence of 20%.
Dr. Nicole Higgins, president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, stated that the adjustment “just makes sense”
According to Higgins, “with the significant increases to the cost of living we are seeing, this will really help to take pressure off of a large number of our patients.” “This reform was recommended years ago by the independent Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, and it brings Australia into line with similar countries like New Zealand, the United States, France, and Canada.”
However, many pharmacists continue to be skeptical. Earlier in this month, a number of individuals caused a disturbance during question time in order to voice their opposition to the 60-day dispensing limits.
According to Hunter, rural pharmacies are not given the respect they deserve.
She says that because of the rise in gasoline prices and the inadequate level of customer care at larger pharmacies, her family would rather not travel to Ballarat to get the supplies they need. This is especially true in recent years.
She states that “Country pharmacies are doing their best to provide a high level of care and services,” and I quote her as saying “[Country pharmacies] are doing their best.” “The government needs to answer for a lot of things in relation to all aspects of healthcare, and I find it increasingly frustrating on a daily basis that they haven’t done so.”