Flood victims must have access to medicines. PSA calls for urgent restoration of full PBS Continued Dispensing initiative.
19 October 2022
The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) is again calling for the Federal Government to reinstate full continued dispensing arrangements amid widespread flooding in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.
Continued dispensing arrangements came into effect in late 2019 allowing people separated from their medicines and prescriptions to access a standard box of their medicines as a one-off one month supply without a prescription.
Despite being in force for over two years without any known safety incidents, the Federal Government reduced the number of eligible medicines from over 900 to only 168 from 30 June 2022.
PSA National President Dr Fei Sim says that while pharmacists are working harder than ever to ensure patients have access to the medicines they need, their hands are tied when it comes to supplying prescription medicines to those who have been most affected.
“We have been speaking with pharmacists who are staying open and trying to help patients with intermittent power, water damage and without stable phone and internet lines. They have told us the watered-down arrangements are putting them in an impossible situation of having to deny reasonable requests for lifesaving medicines or risk losing their AHPRA registration by breaking the law.
“There are common medicines, like anti-depressants, antiarrhythmic, anticoagulant, and antiepileptic medicines for example, that are dangerous to suddenly stop taking. In a disaster situation it is the patients on these sorts of medicines who will suffer without permanent continued dispensing arrangements in place.
“This is unacceptable. The current continued dispensing arrangements are simply not fit-for-purpose. Governments need to make sure that all patients have access to their medicines in emergency situations, regardless of what medicines they take,” Dr Sim said.
“It is vital the full PBS Continued Dispensing list is restored, as it guarantees access to full PBS quantities Australia-wide for people affected by an emergency. Without this, the quantity of medicines a pharmacist can supply varies depending where you are in Australia, which can be as little as only 3 day’s supply We all know emergencies last longer than that.
“Full continued dispensing is necessary to ensure medicines remain affordable in an emergency. Without PBS subsidy, either the patient or pharmacist has to wear the full cost of the medicine at a time where the individual costs of the disaster are starting to roll in.
The last thing these pharmacists and patients need is unnecessary bureaucratic red tape getting in the way of emergency patient care.
“After two years where this problem has been solved, it feels like we’ve gone back to Groundhog Day again. We cannot wait for the next natural disaster to revisit this issue yet again. Restoring full continued dispensing permanently will help improve our disaster response and protect the post-disaster health of our communities.”
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