PSA Media Releases – Four News Items

May 1, 2015
ACT PSA MIMS Intern of the Year 2014 announced

The PSA MIMS Australia ACT Intern of the Year 2014 has been awarded to Brendon Wheatley, a community pharmacist at Dickson Capital Chemist.

The prestigious award celebrates the achievements of exceptional interns in developing skills for their professional career, who have been recognised as striving to raise standards to provide a future model for the practice of pharmacy, even before being fully registered.

Mr Wheatley conducted his intern year at Dickson Capital Chemist with his preceptor, Thomas Ferguson, acknowledging the value that Brendon added to not only the team, but to the community and medical professionals across Canberra. 

He said Brendon’s commitment to patient care and the safe use of medicines was apparent through everyday practices and through showing leadership in the pharmacy.

Mr Ferguson noted Brendon’s positive contribution to the delivery of services within the workplace through working and communicating effectively in a team environment to improve the overall health of patients.

“Brendon contributed and established the IMPROMY diet program within the pharmacy, helping to improve the overall health of the program participants as well as training other staff in the use of the products involved,” Mr Ferguson said.

“Brendon has demonstrated excellent communication skills throughout his intern year with both the local healthcare professionals and peers.”

MIMS sponsors the award and contributes the major prize of $2,000 to each State winner to be used to advance their pharmacy career.

At PSA15, the MIMS PSA Intern of the Year will be awarded to the State winner deemed to have created the most significant innovation during the year.

MIMS is the leading supplier of trusted, quality, independent medicine information to Australian healthcare professionals, known for its high level of editorial integrity and independence.

MIMS Australia has been publishing medicines information for 50 years and has a keen interest in the development of the profession of pharmacy.

Thursday, 30 April
Consumer health needs must be the first concern in PBS reforms, say peak health groups 

Four national health groups have joined forces to urge the Federal Health Minister to assess the health and economic impacts of changes to pharmaceutical subsidies before implementing new measures.

The Consumers Health Forum, Arthritis Australia, Painaustralia and the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia say changes as currently proposed would significantly disadvantage more than one million Australians living with arthritis and other chronic conditions requiring frequent medication.

The Health Minister, Sussan Ley, has foreshadowed significant changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme including the introduction of a discount of up to $1 on the co-payment for prescription medicines and the removal from the PBS of a range of over the counter medicines including analgesics.
This comes when there is a separate move to introduce doctors’ prescriptions for some pain killers currently available over the counter at pharmacies.   There is also continuing speculation about a possible increased co-payment for prescribed medicines.

The chief executive officer of CHF, Leanne Wells, says:  “We accept there is common sense in some of these measures and potential benefits for many consumers. 
But there is a need for a thorough assessment of what they will mean for health care overall. 
The first principle of health policy is that the patient has to come first. 
There are many people with chronic conditions for whom the changes will be a costly blow.  While the minister has indicated savings would be reinvested in health care, it would be a retrograde step if these were at the expense of the chronically ill.”

The plan to remove a range of Over the Counter medicines from the PBS, which are prescribed by doctors for specific conditions, is of major concern.

The CEO of Arthritis Australia, Ainslie Cahill, says “Paracetamol is the first line treatment for osteoarthritis which affects 1.9 million Australians.
The required quantity to allow a therapeutic dose currently costs a pensioner $6.10 from a pharmacy, if prescribed by a doctor.
Under the scheme proposed by the Minister, the same therapeutic dose could cost the pensioner more than $45 to purchase multiple packets from a supermarket.  Quite apart from the worrying cost impact to those with arthritis, there are major safety concerns. 
Increased cost would create an incentive for people to seek, and GPs to prescribe, the next line therapies for osteoarthritis which are PBS-listed, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, or opioids. 
These therapies however are associated with far less favourable safety profiles than paracetamol, especially for those who also suffer other chronic conditions. 
The situation we face highlights the need for more support in the health system for effective alternatives such as weight loss and strengthening exercises,” Ms Cahill says.

The CEO of the PSA, Dr Lance Emerson, says that not only would it be more expensive, it would also take the GP and pharmacist out of the loop with regard to advising consumers on their therapy — advice not available to consumers at the supermarket.

The CEO of Painaustralia, Lesley Brydon, says a separate proposal to make the pain killer codeine a prescription-only drug was likely to prove counter-productive.

“Such a measure, though it might be well-intentioned, will simply increase the load on already over-loaded GPs.  It will potentially deny people access who cannot afford to go to a doctor — and there are a great many such patients — leaving them in pain. 
Having a national real-time monitoring scheme for designated medications including codeine which are sold in pharmacies would be a better way of curtailing overuse and abuse. 
We desperately need a national media education campaign about quality use of medicine for pain,” Ms Brydon says.

The four leaders say another side-effect of the removal of analgesics from the PBS would be the impact on high-need individuals and families as these medications when prescribed count towards their Safety Net, critically important for low-income families and those with chronic illnesses.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people may also be particularly impacted by these changes, as items not on the PBS do not qualify for the Government’s own Close the Gap measures.

“As to the overall impact of the proposed changes, there is the potential for conflicting outcomes resulting from the co-payment changes which we fear could lead to great inequity.  Their impact must be carefully examined before proceeding.”

“We need to remember that Australia’s per capita health care spending on access to medicines is below the OECD average.

“The community needs clarity on these issues.
We need to be working together to improve consumers’ health and maintain safety, quality and standards, in addition to achieving a sustainable and viable health system,” the four leaders said.

April 30, 2015
PSA welcomes support for pharmacists by Minister Sussan Ley

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia has welcomed comments made by the Federal Minister for Health, Sussan Ley, acknowledging and supporting the skills of pharmacists to effectively and safely manage the supply of medicines containing codeine.

The Minister said: “Pharmacists are well qualified to advise, to assess, and to determine what somebody’s requests for medicines are, and how appropriate those requests may be.”

Chief Executive Officer of the PSA, Dr Lance Emerson, said consumers needed to be able to access these medicines.
Suggestions they be moved to prescription-only would not only negatively affect those who had genuine need for them, but would not address the real issues around misuse.

“Pharmacists are the recognised medicines experts and as the Minister said, have the qualifications and knowledge to determine the appropriateness of supply of these medicines,” Dr Emerson said.

“Importantly, they also have the trust of consumers, as is shown in the latest Roy Morgan Image of Professions Survey 2015 which measures how professions are rated for honesty and ethical standards.

“Pharmacists were the second highest rated profession, just behind nurses, and this reflects the very high regard they are held in by the community.”

Dr Emerson said pharmacists were aware of and shared concerns over the rising levels of harm associated with the inappropriate use of over-the-counter analgesics containing codeine.

“PSA has suggested a number of strategies in our recent position statement, Minimising harm from the inappropriate use of over the counter analgesics, and have developed resources for use by pharmacists and consumers to strengthen the appropriate use of these medicines,” he said.

“We strongly promote quality use of medicines and responsible self-care, and are committed to supporting pharmacists to provide solutions to consumers seeking to manage pain and addiction issues.

“The Minister’s confidence in the profession is well founded and we thank her for expressing it so articulately.”

April 28, 2015
$3bn cuts to PBS a recipe for poor health

Consumers across Australia should be concerned by reports that the Commonwealth Government plans to cut $3 billion from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme in next month’s federal budget.

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia says such cuts may negatively impact on quality medication use and health outcomes for Australians.

National President of the PSA, Grant Kardachi, said: “Cutting the PBS doesn’t just mean reduced access to medicines; funding for essential pharmacist-delivered services is also dependent on the PBS budget.
Our 18,000 members – most of whom are working in community pharmacies across Australia – are deeply concerned about the potential impact further cuts will have on patient health.

“We have had reports of an unprecedented number of pharmacy foreclosures in the past year or so.
Efficiencies gained by government over the past five years through the Community Pharmacy Agreement are already compromising the network of community pharmacies for consumers – further cuts may be a disaster.”

Mr Kardachi said that pharmacists’ wages were alarmingly low, and further cuts would mean owners having to make additional staff cuts and potentially reduce services, which would have a very negative impact for consumers.

“The latest policy includes discounting the PBS patient co-payment.
It also includes removal of subsidies for some over-the-counter medicines when written on a prescription.
The modelling of this proposed policy needs to include a patient health impact assessment, particularly for patients on lower incomes as these medications would otherwise count towards their safety net.
This safety net is critically important for low-income families and those with chronic illnesses,” Mr Kardachi said.

“I would encourage the Government to examine the impact these policies firstly have on consumers.
The PSA has presented a range of options for pharmacist services which could help maintain the viability and sustainability of the health system, while addressing the health needs of consumers.

“The Government should be looking longer term and reviewing professional pharmacist services over the term of the next Agreement for efficiency and efficacy, in much the same way as it is reviewing MBS services.
This would result in more targeted and evidence-based funding of services and avoid the dangers associated with wholesale PBS cuts, which I believe could seriously compromise the delivery of pharmacists’ services, quality use of medicines and consumer health.
We need to be working together to maintain safety, quality and standards, in addition to achieving savings and sustainability.”

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