Billions for cheaper medicines, but consumer groups wary

Cheaper medicines are on their way, following an agreement between the federal government and the Pharmacy Guild of Australia (PGA), in what is being described as a peace deal in the wake of the PGA’s opposition to the 60-day script changes.

Pharmacists instigated a public campaign against the 60-day scripts, designed to cut costs for consumers, when they were announced last year.

The two parties signed off on the Eighth Community Pharmacy Agreement (8CPA) yesterday. The deal  is designed to deliver cheaper medicines, improve health outcomes and shore up community pharmacies. But consumer advocates are calling for greater clarity on how much will go towards cheaper medicines and how much will go towards supporting pharmacists.

Billion-dollar announcement

The 8CPA will provide an extra $3 billion for community pharmacies and cheaper medicines.

While the overall funding has been announced, the federal government, the PGA and other stakeholders will now work to hammer out the details, with the agreement expected to be in force from 1 July this year.

Minister for health Mark Butler said the government was committed to improving access to healthcare for all Australians.

“Australians have already saved more than $280 million on their medicine costs since January 2023, thanks to the government’s commitment to cheaper medicines,” Mr Butler said.

“This agreement ensures Australians will continue to receive cheaper medicines, including guaranteeing our historic 60-day prescription reforms into the future.

“The government recognises the very important role played by community pharmacies, and the 8CPA will support them to play an even bigger role in the primary care sector.”

However, the consumer healthcare peak body Consumer Health Forum (CHF) would like more transparency around the agreement such as how much is going towards cheaper medicines and how much is being provided to pharmacists. 

“We know through our consumer survey on community pharmacies that consumers value their local pharmacy, but CHF is mindful that every dollar of taxpayer’s money used to underwrite these essentially private businesses are dollars not directly helping Australians with cost-of-living pressures,” CHF chief executive Elizabeth Deveny said.

Consumer benefit

“It’s really important that when the 8CPA does start, the government makes a strong effort to ensure that the public is educated about what the agreement is and how it will benefit consumers, as well as fully explaining how the extra $3 billion is being spent to benefit consumers.”

Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) president Associate Professor Fei Sim welcomed the certainty for community pharmacists and community pharmacy owners.

​“Confidence and certainty are essential for a strong, sustainable community pharmacy network,” Assoc. Prof. Sim said. 

“We congratulate the guild and the government for reaching heads of agreement which will provide confidence to the industry.”

The previous agreement – 7CPA – provided $18.3 billion in funding and will run out in June 2025.

The agreement funded programs such as the Home Medicines Review, Diabetes MedsCheck and Residential Medication Management. It also funded emergency locum services and training for rural pharmacists.

Do you think private businesses such as pharmacists should be given taxpayer money? Why not share your opinion in the comments section below?

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