Budget boost could help save lives

Monday, 16 November 2019


The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia has called on the Victorian Government to make Medication Assisted Treatment for Opioid Dependence (MATOD) more affordable in order to save lives.


In its 2020-21 Pre-Budget Submission, PSA identified four priority areas of action where funding will have a significant impact on health care and outcomes.
“Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data suggests 298 people in Victoria lost their lives last year due to opioid induced deaths.” Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Victorian President, Ben Marchant said. “Every one of these members of our community were someone’s friend or family member and leave behind grieving loved ones.”


MATOD programs support people living with a substance use disorder and provide stability and a pathway to rehabilitation through daily dosing of long-acting opioid medicines such as methadone.


PSA understands there are approximately 14,000 people currently utilising the program in Victoria, but there are substantial barriers to access.


“Cost is a significant barrier,” Mr Marchant explained. “While the medicines are free, the cost for safe, witnessed dosing is currently met by the patient. This is out of step with other states where these services can be fully government funded.”


In Victoria, MATOD services are nearly exclusively provided through community pharmacies.


“We are proposing a co-payment model. The Victorian Government would provide funds for this service in order to reduce patient out of pockets costs – making access more affordable – while ensuring pharmacists are adequately remunerated and able to offer this important service,” Mr Marchant said.


PSA has also warned that some of Victoria’s most vulnerable population groups, including children, the ill, elderly and infirm, are being put at risk due to the low vaccination rates of those who care for them.


“For example, less than 50 per cent of childcare workers are fully vaccinated and seasonal influenza vaccination uptake is inconsistent in aged care and health care workers,” Mr Marchant revealed.


To increase vaccination rates in Victoria, PSA is recommending expanding the range of vaccines trained pharmacists are able to administer in line with proposals in the current Department of Health and Human Services (Victoria) vaccination consultation and to include all vaccines recommended for health care workers and carers.


PSA’s Pre-Budget Submission also calls on the Government to establish the role of Victorian Chief Pharmacist and allocate $500,000 to upskill pharmacists in mental health first aid.


“Nearly half of all Australians will experience a mental health illness in their lifetime,” Mr Marchant said. “Mental health challenges are even more common in rural and remote areas where pharmacists are often the most accessible healthcare professional.


“Pharmacists are well placed to support patients in the community and identify them early so they can be referred to appropriate mental health providers, including general practitioners.


In Victoria, there are 7,443 registered pharmacists working in community pharmacies, hospital, general practice, aged care, Victorian and federal government and within other private sector organisations.


PSA’s Victorian Budget submission can be found here.


Media contact: Stefanie Johnston, PSA Victoria – 0417 910 738


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