Patients to benefit with funding to expand pharmacists role

Wednesday, 29 January 2020


Lives will be saved and health outcomes improved through fully using the expertise and accessibility of Australia’s pharmacists, providing a positive return on investment, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia has emphasised in its 2020-21 Federal Budget Submission.


“Accessibility to health care is a major challenge in this country,” National President, Associate Professor Chris Freeman said. “Some members of our community do not get the health care they need and deserve. As our population ages and the number of people with chronic conditions continues to rise, we need to be innovative and use our resources efficiently.


“Our healthcare system will benefit from improvements to patients’ health and wellbeing through the better use of pharmacists’ knowledge and expertise. Older Australians, particularly those in aged care, rely on medicines as part of their treatment but are particularly vulnerable to medicine-related harm. Ninety eight per cent of aged care residents have at least one medication related problem.


“Over half of aged care residents are exposed to at least one potentially inappropriate medicine. What we know from the Aged Care Royal Commission interim report is that this is often a sedative or psychotropic medicine that can make them drowsy and more likely to experience a harm. It has been estimated the use of psychotropic medicines in aged care is only clearly justified in about 10 per cent of cases.”


PSA is seeking resources and support to enable pharmacists working in aged care to improve the safer use of medicines for patients. Funding of $8.7 million over four years would establish a Medicine Safety in Aged Care Resources and Support program which would develop, disseminate, implement and evaluate evidence-based resources for aged care facilities and reduce the current reliance on high-risk medicines.


Associate Professor Freeman said Australians living in rural and remote parts of the country were one of the main groups to struggle with health care accessibility, many having to travel great distances to see a GP or go to hospital. Rural and remote patients tend to turn to their pharmacist, who are often the only health care provider in a community.


“It has been very clear during the recent bushfire emergency the role of rural pharmacists and their willingness to step up in times of need. We want to be able to support our rural pharmacists to do more to be able to help their communities,” he said.


“Investing in a Rural Pharmacy Enhanced Services Program will help keep pharmacists in the bush and support delivery of services such as smoking cessation, chronic disease management, health screening, wound care and mental health triage and referral.”


The use of opioid medicines in Australia has increased dramatically in recent decades associated with increasing use in the management of chronic pain and post-surgical pain.


“Tragically, over three Australians die each day from opioid overdose, the majority involving the use of pharmaceutical opioids,” Associate Professor Freeman said. “Between 2007 and 2016, the rate of opioid deaths rose by 62 per cent. In 2016-17, 15.4 million opioid prescriptions were dispensed under the PBS to 3.1 million Australians.”

“A collaborative opioid stewardship program, actively supported by pharmacists, will allow us to improve, monitor and evaluate opioid use and increase safety and effectiveness of opioid use and pain management in primary care.”


The Commonwealth Government’s Workforce Incentive Program (WIP) strengthens multidisciplinary primary care by supporting general practices to engage allied health professionals including non-dispensing pharmacists.


“Pharmacists in primary care make a difference by providing advice and education on medicine safety and quality use of medicines and reducing the risk of medicine problems as patients transition between care providers,” Assoc Prof Freeman explained.


“PSA would like this valuable program expanded further. Integrating pharmacists into general practice is expected to yield a net saving of $544.87 million to the health system over four years.”


PSA also proposes establishing the role of Chief Pharmacist within the Australian Government Department of Health. The Chief Pharmacist would provide direction and high-level advice on all pharmacy and medicines issues and complement the work of the Chief Medical Officer.


A full copy of the PSA Federal Budget Submission is available here.


Media contact: PSA Media – 0487 922 176